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Madagascan Flying Raptor is INDEED a Madagascan Flying Raptor...
Okay, way back in the 1990s the SUNY-Stony Brook team started working the
Madagascan Late Cretaceous fauna, and came across a funny
little critter. It had a long tail, good old-fashioned sickle claws, elongate
forelimbs with quill nodes. At the time I (and others)
had nicknamed it the "Madagascan flying raptor."
Later, when the creature was finally published, it was Rahona ostromi (revised
to Rahonavis). And it was a bird. Probably.
Later came Unenlagia: an Argentine maniraptoran with dromaeosaurid and bird
And Neuquenraptor: an Argentine maniraptoran with dromaeosaurid and troodontid
And now the specimen that links all of them together!
Buitreraptor gonzalezorum, the most complete member of Unenlagiinae. Placing it
in an updated matrix, its pulls the above creatures
together into a clade at the base of Dromaeosauridae (especially if Unenlagia
and Neuquenraptor are the same taxon, as they
suggest). The remaining (Laurasian) clade contains Microraptorinae (Microraptor
+ Sinornithosaurus), and a clade of classic
dromaeosaurids, divided into Dromaeosaurinae (Dromaeosaurus, Utahraptor,
Adasaurus, Saurornitholestes, and Achillobator) and
Velociraptorinae (Velociraptor, Deinonychus, IGM 100/1015).
Like Novas' giant unenlagiine (shown at SVP last year), Buitreraptor has an
elongate (almost pterodactyloid-like) snout. Its known
from the most complete non-avian theropod found in the Cretaceous of South
But here's a cool thing. Nearly everyone agrees that Rahonavis was probably a
flier. It is now a dromaeosaurid. We have flying
Here's another cool thing. Rahonavis is not at the base of Unenlagiinae
(Buitreraptor falls there), but it did retain/reverted to
the ancestral eumaniraptoran size. Microraptor is comparably-sized, and while
not as long armed as Rahonavis likely also had some
aerial ability. As do basal avialians.
So the Greg Paul hypothesis of flying ancestors of birds and dromaeosaurids
gets some more support than before. And the possibility
that Velociraptor, Dromaeosaurus, and Deinonychus are all secondarily
flightless is better than it was based on earlier evidence.
Not to say there aren't complications: the short-armed troodontids, for
instance. But actually flying dromaeosaurids are looking a
lot more likely...
Thomas R. Holtz, Jr.
Senior Lecturer, Vertebrate Paleontology
Department of Geology Director, Earth, Life & Time Program
University of Maryland College Park Scholars
Building 237, Room 1117
College Park, MD 20742
Phone: 301-405-4084 Email: email@example.com
Fax (Geol): 301-314-9661 Fax (CPS-ELT): 301-405-0796