Dinosaur Discovery Sheds Light on How Raptors Used Talons

The extinction of the last known dinosaur and the events that finally caused it has long been a topic of discussion. But now a dinosaur points a catastrophic finale for the Age of Dinosaurs, as opposed to a gradual one as some researchers believe, reports The Christian Science Monitor.

A new dinosaur discovery in Utah has shed light on how Velociraptors used curving talons as a weapon. 


The 75-million-year-old dinosaur is a feathered raptor named Talos sampsoni or “Talos.” Estimated to have been about 6 feet long and weighing 80 pounds, the recently discovered fossil was found in one of the last unspoiled dinosaur graveyards in the US. Located in southern Utah, at least 15 new dinosaur species have been discovered in the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument during the last decade. 


"Finding a decent specimen of this type of dinosaur in North America is like a lighting strike," Zanno told LiveScience. "It's a random event of thrilling proportions."


Made famous by the book Jurassic Park, Velociraptors possessed a switchblade talon on the second toe of each foot, which they held off the ground while walking.  


A discovery in Mongolia 30 years ago suggested that the talons were used to inflict damage while hunting or fighting. The recent find in Utah further supports this hypothesis as researchers discovered what appeared to be signs of trauma to the raptor’s second toe. 


With the help of a high-resolution micro-CT scanner, Zanno and her colleagues were able to see that the injury was restricted to the toe with the enlarged claw and that it had either been fractured or bitten before suffering from a localized infection.   "People have speculated that the talon on the foot of raptor dinosaurs was used to capture prey, fight with other members of the same species, or defend the animal against attack," Zanno said. "Our interpretation supports the idea that these animals regularly put this toe in harm's way."   Michael Knell, a doctoral student at Montana State University, discovered the dinosaur while exploring the area for fossil turtles as part of his doctoral research.  "I was surprised when I learned that I had found a new dinosaur," he said. "It is a rare discovery, and I feel very lucky to be part of the exciting research happening here in the monument."   The bones of Talos sampsoni  will be on display in the Past Worlds Observatory at the Utah Museum of Natural History in Salt Lake City.  
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