Gigantoraptor: 1400 kg bird-like dinosaur!

It’s not every day paleontologists discover a new dinosaur! These discoveries take me back to the wonder of imagining the dinosaur world when I was a child. We weren’t saturated with the pre-digested smoothly-animated imagery* of Jurassic Park and Walking With Dinosaurs and Prehistoric Park. We imagined the world in fits and starts, informed by fragmented scraps of information from books and museum exhibits. The grassy world in my mind, populated by the lizard giants Brontosaurus and T. rex thundering around and eating gum trees and each other, pterodactyls swooping overhead, gradually evolved into a series of grassless volcanic worlds inhabited by Brachiosaurus and Microraptor and Ankylosaurus and Coelophysis and Baryonyx and Ornithomimus and Parasaurolophus.

What am I on about? Today’s news brings us the story of a new discovery, a 1400 kg toothless bird-like dinosaur, dubbed Gigantoraptor erlianensis.

Gigantoraptor
image credit: The Telegraph UK

Discovered in Inner Mongolia, Gigantoraptor erlianensis boasts a toothless beak and spongy, light bones, and is many times heavier than similar oviraptosaurs. It is not known yet whether it was carnivorous, herbivorous, or both.

*Not that I’m arguing against the existence of such imagery – I enjoy every minute of dinosaur flicks, just as I did my childhood dinosaur conceptual trail, and my four year old doesn’t seem any less enthusiastic about his dino discoveries than I was. Any kid who can pronounce “Icthyosaur” impeccably is doing alright.



Categories: fun & hobbies, Science

3 replies

  1. Your link goes to a video about the London 2012 Olympics logo. I’m almost certain that wasn’t your intent.
    I heard a TV newsreader this morning talk about how this challenged previous theories that dinosaur-bird evolution only involved small birdlike dinosaurs. I’d never heard of such a theory? I’m almost sure that whoever wrote her copy was confusing the issue of what birdlike dinosaur species ended up surviving to be the ancestors of today’s birds rather than any inherent theory that only small dinosaurs would adapt to be more birdlike?

  2. Link fixed, I think. Bad Telegraph site, bad! (So how about that logo, eh?)
    I haven’t heard that theory either, though I confess to not being 100% up to date on dinosaur-bird evolutionary theory. I’ve been poking around a little, and found this entry at Scienceblogs:

    Because of its large size, this fossil is challenging the prevailing scientific hypothesis that dinosaurs became smaller as they evolved into birds while larger dinosaurs retained less birdlike characteristics.
    “This is like having mouse that is the size of a horse or cow,” explained Xu. “It is very important information for us in our efforts to trace the evolution process of dinosaurs to birds. It’s more complicated than we imagined.”
    Curiously, even though Gigantoraptor stands twice the height of a man at its shoulder, its limbs remained gracile rather than becoming shorter and heavier.
    “Normally, when dinosaurs become large in size, they have proportionally stouter limbs and shorter lower legs than their small-sized relatives,” Xu observed. “However, Gigantoraptor has much more slender limbs and longer lower legs than similarly-sized theropods.”
    [snip]
    But other paleontologists disagree, saying that Gigantoraptor would be a natural step in the evolutionary process of the oviraptors.

    The paper is here, for anyone with Nature access.

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