Friday, May 18, 2012

A New Dromaeosaurine from the Early Cretaceous of Utah!

Hello! If you'll remember, my last blog post was posted about a month ago, and it was about the Loch Ness Monster. Well, about 3 days ago, something very special happened. A new dromaeosaurid species, Yurgovuchia doellingi, was officially described and named, in the scientific journal PLoS ONE. The paper, which was authored by Phil Senter, James Kirkland, Donald DeBlieux, Scott Madsen, and Natalie Toth, stated that this dinosaur is known only from a single specimen, so far, which consists of a partial post-cranial skeleton. The fossils were discoved at a location known as "Don's Place", in Utah, where Don DeBlieux found them, in 2005. This bone bed is located in the Cedar Mountain Formation. The fossil remains probably date to the Barremian stage of the Early Cretaceous period, from about 135-125 million years ago.

Many other deinonychosaurs are also known, from this formation. Perhaps the most famous is the giant Utahraptor, which, as of now, is the largest known dromaeosaurid. The troodontid Geminiraptor was also discovered there, as well as the small coelurosaur Nedcolbertia. An unnamed velociraptorine dromaeosaurid has also been discovered, in this geological formation.

The genus name, Yurgovuchia, is derived from yurgovuch, a word in the Ute Native American language that means "coyote". The authors chose this name, because they presumed that this species perhaps would have occupied a relatively similar ecological niche, to the modern-day coyote. The species name, doellingi, honors the geologist Helmut Doelling, who has done a lot of field work, in the same area where Yurgovuchia was discovered.

In the paper, the authors carried out a phylogenetic analysis, and they then came to the conclusion that Yurgovuchia most likely belongs to the dromaeosaur subfamily Dromaeosaurinae, along with Utahraptor, Achillobator, and Dromaeosaurus.

Yurgovuchia is the first dromaeosaurid to be described and named in 2012. It is obviously a very important scientific discovery, which will hopefully shed some new light, on the evolution of the Dromaeosauridae.

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