Dino hips discovery unravels species riddle

August 8, 2017 by Katie Willis
Life reconstruction of the newly discovered Latenivenatrix mcmasterae by Julius Csotonyi. Credit: Julius Csotonyi

New research from University of Alberta paleontologists shows one of North America's most broadly identified dinosaur species, Troodon formosus, is no longer a valid classification, naming two others in its stead. The discovery by graduate student Aaron van der Reest leaves North America's paleontology community in upheaval.

In June 2014, van der Reest discovered an intact troodontid pelvis in Dinosaur Provincial Park, leading him to take a closer look at previously collected troodontid cranial bones from southern Alberta.

"That's when everything fell together and we were able to confirm that there were in fact two different species in the Dinosaur Park Formation, instead of just one," said van der Reest.

He named one of the Latenivenatrix mcmasterae and resurrected another, Stenonychosaurus inequalis.

Setting the record straight

Up until then, the vast majority of troodontid specimens found in North America had been classified as Troodon formosus.

"Troodon formosus has been found from Mexico all the way to Alaska, spanning a 15 million year period—a fantastic and unlikely feat," explained van der Reest, a of renowned paleontologist Philip Currie.

"The hips we found could ultimately open the door for dozens of new species to be discovered," said van der Reest. "Researchers with other specimens now have two new species for comparison, widening our ability to understand the Troodontid family tree in North America."

Aside from being a new species, Latenivenatrix is in a league of its own.

"This new species is the largest of the troodontids ever found anywhere in the world, standing nearly two metres at the head and close to 3.5 metres long," van der Reest said. "It's about fifty per cent larger than any other troodontids previously known, making it one of the largest deinonychosaurs (raptor like ) we currently recognize."

Personal connection

For van der Reest, naming a new dinosaur has been an especially powerful experience. He has named his discovery Latenivenatrix mcmasterae, or L. mcmasterae, in honour of his late mother, Lynne (McMaster) van der Reest, whose encouragement was essential for his pursuit of paleontology.

"Having brought my first find full circle, from discovery to publishing my research three years later, has been really incredible," he explained. "I can't think of a better way to honour her memory."

The paper, "Troodontids (Theropoda) from the Dinosaur Park Formation, Alberta, with a description of a unique new taxon: implications for deinonychosaur diversity in North America"is published in the Canadian Journal of Earth Sciences.

Explore further: Scientists name new species of dinosaur after Canadian icon

More information: Aaron J. van der Reest et al. Troodontids (Theropoda) from the Dinosaur Park Formation, Alberta, with a description of a unique new taxon: implications for deinonychosaur diversity in North America, Canadian Journal of Earth Sciences (2017). DOI: 10.1139/cjes-2017-0031

Related Stories

Scientists name new species of dinosaur after Canadian icon

July 17, 2017

Scientists from the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) and the Philip J Currie Dinosaur Museum have identified and named a new species of dinosaur in honour of renowned Canadian palaeontologist Dr. Philip J. Currie. Albertavenator ...

Newly discovered raptor lived alongside T. rex

December 19, 2013

(Phys.org) —It's been a big year for the University of Alberta's Phil Currie, even by his standards as one of the world's top dinosaur hunters. He's lead instructor on Dino 101. This summer, he had a museum named after ...

Recommended for you

Violence a matter of scale, not quantity, researchers show

December 11, 2017

Anthropologists have debated for decades whether humans living in tribal communities thousands of years ago were more or less violent than societies today. Researchers at the University of Notre Dame wonder if the question ...

Nuclear technology unlocks 50-million-year-old time capsules

December 11, 2017

A scientific analysis of fossilised tree resin has caused a rethink of Australia's prehistoric ecosystem, and could pave the way to recovering more preserved palaeobiological artefacts from the time of dinosaurs or prehistoric ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.