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Re: Ultraraptor

(Okay, cue music: "Night on Bald Mountain"]

Ah, where to begin...

In general, I agree whole-heartedly with the sentiment expressed by others:
you have the interest, but not the knowledge.  There are numerous up-to-date
books out there on dinosaur paleontology written for the interested layman:
I might recommend Farlow & Brett-Surman's _The Complete Dinosaur_ for a start.

Now, for the details:

At 11:57 PM 4/7/99 -0700, Craig Ferguson wrote:
>       Everyone has asked why I think T-Rex is a Raptor. It is very simple.
>Raptors were feroicious killers, everyone agrees about that. Why?
>Because the DNA of the Raptors had a gene that caused them to be
>killing machines. T-Rex was huge and powerful, and had huge, sharp
>teeth. T-Rex tooth marks have been found on other dinosaurs, so we know
>it was a predator. It too had the "killer gene". It was passed on to it
>from it's Raptor ancestors.

Well, let's first off get our terms straight.  If by "raptor" you mean
"small carnivorous predatory dinosaur", then I agree with you
whole-heartedly.  In fact, one of my first papers as a paleontologist was to
demonstrate that tyrannosaurs did evolve from small fast moving bird-like
theropods, and were not simply "super carnosaurs".  In a general audience
paper I wrote some years ago, I refered to the ancestors of tyrannosaurs as
"tyrannoraptors": an informal description, but not a formal name.

However, most of the time these days the name "raptor" is used in dinosaur
paleontologist to mean "dromaeosaurid".  The dromaeosaurids are a highly
specialized group of small to mid-sized meat eating dinosaurs, including
_Velociraptor_, _Deinonychus_, _Utahraptor_, and others.  Dromaeosaurids are
way too specialized to be tyrannosaurid ancestors: their skulls, hips, feet,
tails, and other parts are highly transformed in very different ways from
tyrant dinos.

So, tyrannosaurs were not descendants of _Velociraptor_ and company, but
both did probably evolve from a small, bird-like predatory form (picture
something like _Ornitholestes_, if you are familiar with that dinosaur).

As others have pointed out, though, being a nasty predator is not sufficient
evidence to prove relationships.  Tasmanian devils and timber wolves are
both nasty predators, but timber wolves are placental mammals more closely
related to cows and whales and primates and bats, while Tasmanian devils are
marsupial mammals more closely related to kangaroos and wombats and
opposums.  In order to establish evolutionary relationships, you need to
know the anatomical details of the groups in question.

>Has anyone read Raptor Red?  Its by Bob T.
>Bakker, probably the greatest paleontologist ever.

Hey, I like Bob and all, but he wouldn't agree with that statement, and
neither would I.  Most every dinosaur paleontologist these days (Bakker
included) would put John Ostrom near the head of the list of top dinosaur
paleontologists, but others (such as Simpson, Romer, Cope, Marsh, Cuvier,
etc.) have made huge contributions to the field of vertebrate paleontology
as a whole.  And, of course, there is a lot more to paleontology than just
dinosaurs and other vertebrates!

>Utahrapor, a very
>big Raptor, behaved so much like a T-Rex. Utahraptor is a good
>intermediate between Velociraptor and T-Rex, it has a middle size, and
>claws midway between the two.

Actually, the claws of _Utahraptor_ are not very different from
_Velociraptor_.  _Tyrannosaurus_ claws are very different from either of
these.  I might suggest you actually get a chance to look at the bones (or
casts of the bones) rather than pictures in a novel.

>       Since I think T-Rex is a Raptor, it MUST have a new name. "Tyrant
>lizard" is not a good description of T-Rex, "Ultraraptor" would better
>describe it's evolution and lifestyle.

Well, as some have pointed out, you can't change the name of dinosaurs or
other animals just because our ideas about the animal changes.  Also, "King
of the Tyrant Lizards" is a DAMN fine name for coolest creature to walk the
Earth: no reason to take a name suggesting it is just an overblown
kickboxer...  (Not that I'm biased to tyrannosaurs or anything ;-)

>       Obviously, there is some difference in opinion concerning the T-Rex
>and Raptor connection. Someone said some people named "Tom Holtz",
>"Kevin Padian", and "John Hutchinson" wrote something similar to my

Well, not to put too fine a point on it, some person named..., well, me said
something similar to it.  Dr. Kevin Padian (dinosaur and pterosaur
paleontologist) and John Hutchinson (graduate student of dinosaur
paleontology) were my coauthors on a paper on taxonomy (the practice and
procedure of applying names to groups of organisms).

>And as Bob T. Bakker has shown, the old way of classifying
>dinosaurs is Wrong!!!

Well, yes, but Bakker's book (published over 13 years ago) is out-of-date in
that aspect.  A LOT of work has been done on clarifying dinosaur
relationships since _The Dinosaur Heresies_!

Thomas R. Holtz, Jr.
Vertebrate Paleontologist     Webpage: http://www.geol.umd.edu
Dept. of Geology              Email:tholtz@geol.umd.edu
University of Maryland        Phone:301-405-4084
College Park, MD  20742       Fax:  301-314-9661