Friday, September 18, 2009

Raptorex, Raptorex

Whoa! News outlets and the paleoblogosphere have blowed up mightily over last 24 hours with the news of the new tyrannosaurid Raptorex kriegsteini. Brian Switek wrote a thorough description at Dinosaur Tracking. Chinleana's Bill Parker took a detour from his Triassic stomping grounds to mention it. At DinoGoss, Matt Martyniuk poked fun at its silly name. Beyond the dino-blog world, Jerry Coyne wrote it up on Why Evolution Is True and PZ Myers nodded his head Raptorex's way at Pharyngula. Sports Illustrated hasn't commented on it yet, but the NFL season just started, and there's that NL wild card race to keep an eye on--their plate is pretty full.

Raptorex by Todd Marshall

There's a reason Paul Sereno and his team at the University of Chicago picked a name like "Raptorex," and it was to garner the kind of immediate sensation that causes to feature the story on its front page, as it did yesterday. Like the name or not - it strikes me a bit Saturday-Morning-Cartoony - it certainly caused a splash, and in a much more tasteful way than the Ida debacle. So what is the big deal about what appears, on the surface, to simply be another small, basal tyrannosaurid from the early Cretaceous?

Raptorex, as noted by Sereno, is almost exactly proportioned like its late Cretaceous relative, Tyrannosaurus rex. Unlike other early tyrannosaurids found in China, Dilong and Guanlong, Raptorex bears the signature stubby, two-fingered arms that have been amusing us since the discovery of T. rex. Previously thought to be a later development, this indicates that it was an adaptation that had use for small predators as well as the giant tyrannosaurids to come.

PS. It helps if you sing the title of this post to tune of "Birthday Sex" by Jeremih. Weird Al, you have your marching orders. Hop to.

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