One of the most exciting things that our excavations uncovered at Bayan Mandahu in the last two years can finally be revealed. Alvarezsaur expert Jonah Choiniere gets the credit for spotting a curved claw poking out of the sand back in 2008 while out prospecting with Mike Pittman. A quick dig revealed there was quite a bit more bone present of some theropod or other. However, as with many such events, the specimen was dug out and put in a plaster jacket without uncovering it so that it was protected from damage. Therefore it was only months later back at the lab when the jacket was opened and preparation of the specimen done that it was clear what was inside. It was this:
Yes say hello to Linheraptor exquisitus a new dromaeosaur from Bayan Mandahu. As the name suggests the preservation on this thing is absolutely incredible. Great through the specimens often are from this formation, this ranks as one of the best yet. Not only is the condition really good but the specimen is almost entirely complete and articulated. Some bits of the skull have gone, some of the tail and the furcula, one of the legs has a nasty surface, probably caused by water, but as specimens go, it’s pretty much perfect. It shows off some nice features such as the fenestrae in the skull, uncinate processes on the ribs and flexion of the tail.
It’s quite large for a dromaeosaur, being about 2 m long which for size and gross morphology puts it right alongside the famous (or even infamous) Velociraptor which is known from beds of the same age just over the border in Mongolia. However, Linheraptor has more in common with the less well known Tsaagan from across the border in Mongolia. Tsaagan is only known from a superbly preserved skull and a few neck vertebrae limiting the comparison between the two but there are differences. This makes Linheraptor the fifth dromaeosaur from these beds (and their equivalents) alongside two species of Velociraptor, Tsaagan and Mahakala so the small predators were clearly quite diverse.
This initial description and diagnosis is rather short – there’s more work to do on this specimen as preparation continues and new information is revealed. As a result there’s not much more for me to add here than thanks again to Matt Van Rooijen author of the Optimistic Painting blog or his reconstruction at the top. This is Matt’s work, so if you want to use it, contact him. It’s well worth a look, Matt has a cracking little animation showing how he got to the final design via all the draft images.
Xu, X., Choinere, J., Pittman, M., Tan, Q., Xiao, D., Li, Z., Tan, L., Clark, J., Norell, M., Hone, D.W.E., & Sullivan, C. A new dromaeosaurid (Dinosauria: Theropoda) from the Upper Cretaceous Wulansuhai Formation of Inner Mongolia, China. Zootaxa, 2403: 1-9.