It is the first raptor ever found in the Southern Hemisphere, but compared to other raptors, Neuquenraptor argentinus wasnt much of a standout. It was only of average height and weight for its kind, measured six feet from head to tail, and brandished a razor-sharp claw for slashing prey.
Now, its bones provide the first uncontroversial evidence that raptors roamed the prehistoric world beyond the Northern Hemisphere 90 million years ago, said Diego Pol, a postdoctoral researcher at Ohio State. Before this, the extent of the dinosaurs range wasnt certain.
Pol and Fernando Novas of the Argentine Museum of Natural History published their finding in the current issue of the journal Nature.
With joint appointments in Ohio States Mathematical Biosciences Institute and the Department of Biomedical Informatics, Pol represents a kind of new species himself. He is one of a growing number of scientists who are using todays powerful computers to confront grand challenges in the life sciences.
He spends most of his time developing software to map the genes of living creatures, from bacteria to humans, to show how different species are related. He used similar techniques to study the relationships of the new raptor. Because fossils dont preserve DNA, Pol mapped the dinosaurs anatomical and skeletal characteristics to place it on the raptor family tree.
Novas discovered the fossils in Patagonia with colleague Pablo Puerta in 1996. They found fragments of the dinosaurs vertebrae and ribs, as well as parts of its legs and a left rear foot, complete with the signature raptor claw.
Since then, scientists from around the world have worked to record all the data that could be used to identify the
Contact: Diego Pol
Ohio State University