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RE: Madagascan Flying Raptor is INDEED a Madagascan Flying Raptor...



Thomas R. Holtz, Jr. wrote:

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).

The Supplementary Information has some interesting tidbits. It provides a phylogenetic definition for Unenlagiinae ("all taxa closer to _Unenlagia comahuensis_ than to _Velociraptor mongoliensis_"), and uses the suprageneric taxon Microraptorinae, citing Senter et al. (2004). However, Senter et al. (2004) did not erect or define the clade Microraptorinae (or -idae) - they deliberately avoid using suffixes -idae and -inae, and instead came up with Microraptoria. So I would assume that Microraptorinae Makovicky et al. (2005) is equivalent to Microraptoria of Senter et al. (2004).


As for the proposed synonymy of _Unenlagia_ and _Nequenraptor_...
"Novas and Pol (2005) distinguished _Neuquenraptor_ from _Unenlagia_ based on different femoral proportions, but the femur of _Neuquenraptor_ is incomplete and lacks both proximal and distal articular ends, rendering any estimates of proportions as tenuous. Examination of the preserved and comparable features of the femora of both specimens revealed no substantial differences between them, and also reveals that they are similar though not identical in size. New material referred to _Unenlagia_ (Calvo et al., 2004) includes pedal phalanges that are almost identical to Phalanx II-1 and Phalanx II-3 of _Neuquenraptor_ in both size and proportions, although Calvo et al. (2004) misidentified these bones as deriving from digit I and illustrated Phalanx II-1 upside down. Although the co-occurrence and size similarities between the few overlapping skeletal elements of _Neuquenraptor_ and _Unenlagia_ appear to be compelling evidence for possible synonymy, we recognize the need for more materials from the Portezuelo Formation to test this hypothesis more rigorously."


Also, it appears that pelvic characters played a major role in pulling _Rahonavis_, _Unenlagia_ and _Buitreraptor_ together; and the authors suggest that the mobile scapulocoracoid joint was acquired independently in _Rahonavis_ and ornithothoracine birds. Makovicky et al. (2005) also mention possible unenlagiine material from northern Africa...

"Rauhut and Werner (1995) reported dromaeosaurid remains including pedal phalanges and teeth from the Cenomanian Wadi Milk Fm. of Sudan. One of the referred bones was a phalanx II-2 that is similar to unenlagines in having a short, asymmetric heel (Rauhut, pers. com.). Although this is a plesiomorphic trait and thus not indicative of relationships, it is consistent with the presence of a possible unenlagiine in Africa. The referred teeth were serrated, however, thus differinf [sic] from the unserrated teeth of _Buitreraptor_. The pedal and dental materials were found as isolated elements in several localities, so their association is tenuous. Given the fragmentary and isolated nature of the Sudanese material, and lack of data on the dentitions of _Unenlagia_ and _Rahonavis_, it is impossible to refer any of the dromaeosaurid remains from Sudan to an unenlagiine at present."

Some of that Mongolian dromaeosaur material (e.g., _Hulsanpes_) might be worth a second look.

Like Novas' giant unenlagiine (shown at SVP last year), Buitreraptor has an elongate (almost pterodactyloid-like) snout.

It's even possible (but at the moment entirely uncorroborated) that _Unenlagia_ and _Rahonavis_ might have been toothless.


Flying dromaeosaurs?? What's next - oviraptorosaurs with pygostyes? Oh, that's right...we already have them.

Cheers

Tim