Archaeologists found one of the biggest raptors species ever, a feathered dinosaur named, Dakotaraptor steini, that used to live in the Midwest 66 million years ago. The bones were found in Hell Creek Formation on South Dakota.
Robert DePalma and his team found the partial skeleton that represents one of the largest known “dromaeosaurids” – known as raptors – close relatives of the first birds to appear on Earth.
The research team estimates that the Dakotaraptor was around 16 feet in length, a tiny species compared with other giant predators such as the Tyrannosaurus Rex. Nevertheless, compared to the Velociraptor -who had the size of a turkey-, the Dakotaraptor appears to be the biggest and most dangerous raptor known.
Scientists say that like most of its relatives, the Dakotaraptor showed feathers all along its body. The fossils found showed “quill knobs” on the lower arm bones. Today birds have those knobs, just where the feathers attach to the bones.
Although the Dakotaraptor is presumed to be too much large to fly, the knobs found suggest that he either descended from creatures that did fly, or that he was set to evolve into a species that could do so.
“Either it evolved from an ancestor that could fly but had lost the ability to fly, like an ostrich, or dinosaurs evolved big quill-pen feathers for another reason, such as display or egg brooding,” researchers said according to USA Today.
However, the Dakotaraptor is the largest dinosaur ever found that had actual wings, although scientists can’t explain why the species maintained these large appendages. A hypothesis says that they may have used them to protect their eggs from other predators, or maybe they used for hunting or to attract mates.
Nevertheless, evidence shows that the Dakotaraptor probably was a fearsome predator. Its long legs probably made it able to run faster and better than other predators of his time.
Showing claws of the size of a human hand, it’s believed that Dakotaraptors hunted in packs, as researchers say there is some moderate evidence that suggests this kind of behavior.
Scientists locate the Dakotaraptor’s date to the end of the late Cretaceous, meaning that the dinosaur probably died along with all the Dromaeosauridae family. This event is believed to have taken place about 65 million years ago.