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Joke: Birdy New Dinos Pluck the Scientific Flock of Their Collective Dignity
The discovery of a new, large avian-like bird-dino
from Patagonia, and similar to new African and
Australian fossils, sets the paleo community on its
ear. The Patagonian find, named by Novas as
*Toucanopteryx gauthieri*, resembles a giant version
of some of the smaller predatory birds known much
later in history, the phorosrhacoids. The animal is
represented by two well-preserved but partial
skeletons including most of the skull, much of the
vertebrae, part of the pelvis, and hindlimbs; the
second specimen includes some arm bones that show a
ulnar ridge and carpometacarpus, but a long body tail,
typical theropod metatarsus, and dromaeosaur-like
skull show that it was a non-avian theropod. What is
so unique is the form of the snout, very strongly
laterally compressed, tall, long, and lacking in
premaxillary and anterior dentary teeth, and modified
into the beak. It is probable this would have
resembled a toucan's beak, hence the name, Novas says.
The animal's pelvis resembles a previously described
dinobird from Patagonia, *Unenlagia*, and it is placed
in a new family, Unenlagiidae. *Toucanopteryx* was
6ft. tall and could probably run as fast as a horse;
the animal is from the upper part of the Neuquen
Formation, and probably predated the sauropods of that
formation, such as *Saltasaurus*.
Meanwhile, Molnar, Rich, and Currie have described a
new similar dinobird from Western Australia, known
from less material than *Toucanopteryx*, but enough to
compare to many other theropods and even some birds.
They call it *Magnornis fulvus,* and like
*Toucanopteryx*, resembled the later phorosrhacids; it
was more closely related to the dromaeosaurs, however,
than even Novas' species, and features of the hindlimb
bones, which comprise most of the specimen, suggest
that not only was it very long-legged, it was related
to *Ozraptor,* also previously described, and possibly
synonymous with that species. In fact, Molnar et al.
use only two characters to separate the two taxa, and
provisionally name a dromaeosaurid subgroup, the
Ozraptorinae, to include both taxa; pelvic and
vertebral elements comprise the rest of the material,
and these suggest that *Variraptor*, from France, was
also an ozraptorine dromaeosaur. *Magnornis* stood
almost 7ft tall, but vertebrae suggest that it was
very short-backed, and the pelvis suggests it was
rather upright postured and may have had a
half-vertical spine, accounting for its great height.
Finally, a new taxon, Dromaeosauroidea, is used to
include *Protoarchaeopteryx*, Dromaeosauridae, and a
new taxon from the Cenomanian of Morocco, *Titibismo
avis,* described by Sereno et al. (defined as
*Titibismo,* *Velociraptor*, their most recent common
ancestor, and all descendants of that ancestor).
Discovered as Gabrielle Lyon tripped over the holotype
lower jaw, it was almost named *Choropedapos lyonae.*
But because that name was a mouthful, Sereno et al.
resorted to a more easily pronounced name. Mostly
known from a partial skull, vertebrae, and a few limb
bones, previous teeth found in the Late Cretaceous of
northern Africa of the dromaeosaur type have been
refered to this taxon as *T. sp.* similar enough to
the type jaw to warrent referal. *Titibismo* is small,
the size of *Velociraptor,* but the anterior of the
dentary is edentulous, similar to *Toucanipteryx*.
Sereno et al. is rumored to have a paleogeography
paper in press to explain the presecent of three
Gondwanan taxa of Lauraisian form in three different
*Toucanopteryx,* *Magnornis,* and *Titibismo*
represent wonderful finds that finally allow
scientists of firmly establish that theropods gave
rise to birds. Sereno et al. present a cladistic
analysis of these three theropods, dromaeosaurs
(Velociraptorinae and *Dromaeosaurus*),
ornithomimosaurs, Tyrannosauridae, Allosauridae,
*Mononykus,* and oviraptorosaurs. Therizinosaurs,
*Coelurus*, and other problem taxa were not included.
The result was something like this:
Okay, how many of you believed me?
Jaime "James" A. Headden
"Come the path that leads us to our fortune."
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