Cientistas descobrem em Utah um raro dinossauro terópode ferido em ação

sexta-feira, setembro 23, 2011

Scientists Discover Rare Theropod Dinosaur Wounded in Action in Southern Utah

ScienceDaily (Sep. 21, 2011) — Raptor dinosaurs like the iconic Velociraptor from the movie franchise Jurassic Park are renowned for their "fear-factor." Their terrifying image has been popularized in part because members of this group possess a greatly enlarged talon on their foot -- analogous to a butcher's hook. Yet the function of the highly recurved claw on the foot of raptor dinosaurs has largely remained a mystery to paleontologists. This week a collaboration of scientists unveil a new species of raptor dinosaur discovered in southern Utah that sheds new light on this and several other long-standing questions in paleontology, including how dinosaurs evolved on the "lost continent" of Laramidia (western North America) during the Late Cretaceous -- a period known as the zenith of dinosaur diversity.

Skeletal elements of Talos and Troodon illustrating select diagnostic characters of Talos sampsoni (UMNH VP 19479). (Credit: Zanno LE, Varricchio DJ, O'Connor PM, Titus AL, Knell MJ (2011) A New Troodontid Theropod, Talos sampsoni gen. et sp. nov., from the Upper Cretaceous Western Interior Basin of North America. PLoS ONE 6(9): e24487. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0024487)

Their findings will be published in the journal PLoS ONE.

The new dinosaur -- dubbed Talos sampsoni -- is a member of a rare group of feathered, bird-like theropod dinosaurs whose evolution in North America has been a longstanding source of scientific debate, largely for lack of decent fossil material. Indeed, Talos represents the first definitive troodontid theropod to be named from the Late Cretaceous of North America in over 75 years. "Finding a decent specimen of this type of dinosaur in North America is like a lighting strike… it's a random event of thrilling proportions," said Lindsay Zanno, lead author of the study naming the new dinosaur. Zanno is an assistant professor of anatomy at the University of Wisconsin-Parkside and a research associate at the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago, Illinois. Other members of the research team include Mike Knell (a graduate student at Montana State University) who discovered the new specimen in 2008 in the Kaiparowits Formation of Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument (GSENM), southern Utah; Bureau of Land Management (BLM) paleontologist Alan Titus, leader of a decade-long paleontology reconnaissance effort in the monument; David Varricchio, Associate Professor of Paleontology, Montana State University; and Patrick O'Connor, Associate Professor of Anatomy, Ohio University Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine.

Funding for the research was provided in part by the National Science Foundation, the Field Museum of Natural History, the Ohio University Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine, and the Bureau of Land Management. Zanno's research was supported by a John Caldwell-Meeker Fellowship and by a Bucksbaum Fellowship for young scientists. The bones of Talos sampsoni will be on exhibit for the first time in the Past Worlds Observatory at the new Utah Museum of Natural History, Salt Lake City, Utah.

The Nature of the Beast Troodontid theropods are a group of feathered dinosaurs closely related to birds. Members of this group are among the smallest non-avian dinosaurs known (as small as 100 grams) and are considered among the most intelligent. The group is known almost exclusively from Asia and prior to the discovery of Talos sampsoni, only two species were recognized in the Late Cretaceous of North America -- one of which, the infamous Troodon, was one of the first dinosaurs ever named from North America. As a result of their distinctive teeth and the possible presence of seeds preserved as gut contents in one species, several scientists have proposed an omnivorous or herbivorous diet for at least some troodontids. Other species possess relatively blade-like teeth indicative of a carnivorous diet. Zanno's own work on theropod diet suggests that extensive plant eating was confined to more primitive members of the group, with more advanced members of the clade like Troodon and Talos likely consuming at least some prey.

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A New Troodontid Theropod, Talos sampsoni gen. et sp. nov., from the Upper Cretaceous Western Interior Basin of North America

Lindsay E. Zanno1,2*, David J. Varricchio3,Patrick M. O'Connor4,5, Alan L. Titus6, Michael J. Knell3

1 Field Museum of Natural History, Chicago, Illinois, United States of America, 2 Biological Sciences Department, University of Wisconsin-Parkside, Kenosha, Wisconsin, United States of America, 3 Department of Earth Sciences, Montana State University, Bozeman, Montana, United States of America, 4Department of Biomedical Sciences, Ohio University College of Osteopathic Medicine, Athens, Ohio, United States of America, 5Ohio Center for Ecology and Evolutionary Studies, Ohio University, Athens, Ohio, United States of America, 6 Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Bureau of Land Management, Kanab, Utah, United States of America



Troodontids are a predominantly small-bodied group of feathered theropod dinosaurs notable for their close evolutionary relationship with Avialae. Despite a diverse Asian representation with remarkable growth in recent years, the North American record of the clade remains poor, with only one controversial species—Troodon formosus—presently known from substantial skeletal remains.

Methodology/Principal Findings

Here we report a gracile new troodontid theropod—Talos sampsoni gen. et sp. nov.—from the Upper Cretaceous Kaiparowits Formation, Utah, USA, representing one of the most complete troodontid skeletons described from North America to date. Histological assessment of the holotype specimen indicates that the adult body size of Talos was notably smaller than that of the contemporary genus Troodon. Phylogenetic analysis recovers Talos as a member of a derived, latest Cretaceous subclade, minimally containing Troodon, Saurornithoides, and Zanabazar. MicroCT scans reveal extreme pathological remodeling on pedal phalanx II-1 of the holotype specimen likely resulting from physical trauma and subsequent infectious processes.


Talos sampsoni adds to the singularity of the Kaiparowits Formation dinosaur fauna, which is represented by at least 10 previously unrecognized species including the recently named ceratopsids Utahceratops and Kosmoceratops, the hadrosaurine Gryposaurus monumentensis, the tyrannosaurid Teratophoneus, and the oviraptorosaurian Hagryphus. The presence of a distinct troodontid taxon in the Kaiparowits Formation supports the hypothesis that late Campanian dinosaurs of the Western Interior Basin exhibited restricted geographic ranges and suggests that the taxonomic diversity of Late Cretaceous troodontids from North America is currently underestimated. An apparent traumatic injury to the foot of Talos with evidence of subsequent healing sheds new light on the paleobiology of deinonychosaurians by bolstering functional interpretations of prey grappling and/or intraspecific combat for the second pedal digit, and supporting trackway evidence indicating a minimal role in weight bearing.

Citation: Zanno LE, Varricchio DJ, O'Connor PM, Titus AL, Knell MJ (2011) A New Troodontid Theropod, Talos sampsoni gen. et sp. nov., from the Upper Cretaceous Western Interior Basin of North America. PLoS ONE 6(9): e24487. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0024487

Editor: Carles Lalueza-Fox, Institut de Biologia Evolutiva - Universitat Pompeu Fabra, Spain

Received: May 16, 2011; Accepted: August 11, 2011; Published: September 19, 2011

This is an open-access article, free of all copyright, and may be freely reproduced, distributed, transmitted, modified, built upon, or otherwise used by anyone for any lawful purpose. The work is made available under the Creative Commons CC0 public domain dedication.

Funding: Funding provided by National Science Foundation EAR-0617561 (to PMO) and EAR 0745454, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument (GEMNM), the Bureau of Land Management's National Landscape Conservation System (Assistance Agreement JSA071004), as well as John Caldwell-Meeker Postdoctoral Fellowship (LEZ), Bucksbaum Young Scientist Fellowship (LEZ), Field Museum of Natural History, Ohio University College of Osteopathic Medicine (PMO), and Montana State University (DJV, MJK). The funders had no role in the study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.

Competing interests: The authors have declared that no competing interests exist.