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Illustration of a feathered Deinonychus antirrhopus.

Dromaeosaurids are a family of extinct bird-like theropod dinosaurs. They were small to medium-sized, feathered carnivores that flourished during the Cretaceous Period. In informal usage they are often called "raptors" (after Velociraptor), a term popularized by the film Jurassic Park and have become iconic for their enlarged "sickle claw" on the second toe. The name Dromaeosauridae means 'running lizards', from Greek dromeus (δρομευς) meaning 'runner' and sauros (σαυρος) meaning 'lizard'. Dromaeosaurid fossils have been found in North America, Europe, North Africa, Japan, China, Mongolia, Madagascar, Argentina, and Antarctica. They first appeared in the mid-Jurassic Period (Bathonian stage, 167 million years ago) and survived until the end of the Cretaceous (Maastrichtian stage, 65.5 ma), existing for over 100 million years, up until the Cretaceous-Paleogene extinction event. The presence of dromaeosaurs as early as the Middle Jurassic has been confirmed by the discovery of isolated fossil teeth, though no dromaeosaurid body fossils have been found from this epoch. There is also a large body of evidence showing that dromaeosaurids were covered in feathers. Some dromaeosaurid fossils preserve long, pennaceous feathers on the hands and arms (remiges) and tail (rectrices), as well as shorter, down-like feathers covering the body. (Read more...)


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Paul Sereno

Paul Sereno is an American paleontologist who is the discoverer of several new dinosaur species on several continents. He has conducted excavations at sites as varied as Inner Mongolia, Argentina, Morocco and Niger. He is a professor at the University of Chicago and a National Geographic "explorer-in-residence." Sereno's most widely publicized discovery is that of a nearly complete specimen of Sarcosuchus imperator (popularly known as SuperCroc) at Gadoufaoua in the Tenere desert of Niger. Other major discoveries include Eoraptor - the oldest known dinosaur fossil, Jobaria, the first good skull of Carcharodontosaurus iguidensis, Afrovenator, Suchomimus and the African pterosaur. (Read more...)

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"An evolutionary perspective of our place in the history of the earth reminds us that Homo sapiens sapiens has occupied the planet for the tiniest fraction of that planet's four and a half thousand million years of existence. In many ways we are a biological accident, the product of countless propitious circumstances. As we peer back through the fossil record, through layer upon layer of long-extinct species, many of which thrived far longer than the human species is ever likely to do, we are reminded of our mortality as a species. There is no law that declares the human animal to be different, as seen in this broad biological perspective, from any other animal. There is no law that declares the human species to be immortal."
Richard E. Leakey. Co-author with American science writer Roger Amos Lewin (1946), Origins: What New Discoveries Reveal about the Emergence of our Species and its Possible Future (1977), 256.


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Tianyulong

Tianyulong (named for the Shandong Tianyu Museum of Nature where the holotype fossil (STMN 26-3) is housed) is a genus of basal heterodontosaurid ornithischian dinosaur. The fossil represents a sub-adult individual, approximately 1 meter long. It is notable for the row of long, filamentous integumentary structures apparent on the back, tail and neck of the fossil. The similarity of these structures with those found on some derived theropods suggests their homology with feathers and raises the possibility that the earliest dinosaurs and their ancestors were covered with analogous dermal filamentous structures that can be considered as primitive feathers (proto-feathers).

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