Giant raptor found in China

Fujianipus yingliangi fossil track footprint
Fujianipus yingliangi fossil track. Credit: Anthony Romilio.

Massive dinosaur fossil footprints have been found in southern China. They were left behind by a raptor which might be among the largest ever.

Raptor is the term commonly given to members of the Dromaeosauridae and Troodontidae groups of bipedal dinosaurs. Analysis of their skulls indicates that these were pack-hunters and the smartest of dinosaurs, rivalling mammals for intelligence.

It is believed that dromaeosaurids are the group which ultimately led to modern birds.

Palaeontologists in China have identified many raptor species over the years, including Velociraptor. But Velociraptor was a lot smaller than it was depicted in Stephen Spielberg’s 1993 classic Jurassic Park. The bird-like dinosaur would only have been about 50cm tall at the hip, compared to their movie counterparts who were about 1 metre high at the hip.

Some raptors were huge. Utahraptor, found in the early Cretaceous of North America, would have been about 1.5m at the hips, 5–7m from nose to tail.

Based on the fossil tracks found in China, the animal which left them behind must have been among the largest raptors ever, at about 1.8m tall at the hip.

The creature, dubbed Fujianipus yingliangi, is described in a paper published in the iScience journal.

Fujianipus’s tracks were found at the Longxiang site in China’s Fujian province. Each footprint measures about 36cm long. The shape and orientation of the toes suggests that Fujianipus might be a member of the troodontid family.

The tracks are dated to 86–101 million years ago. This places them in the Late Cretaceous period (101–66 million years ago).

Size comparison human raptor
Comparison of a human with the lower end of the estimated size range for Fujianipus yingliangi. Credit: Anthony Romilio.

At the time, the authors note slightly smaller cousins of Tyrannosaurus rex and Allosaurus roamed Asia. It is possible these large-bodied carnivorous dinosaurs would have competed with the massive raptor Fujianipus for food.

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