Episode 390: How dinosaurs evolved flight. We explore the radical transformation that dinosaurs went through to become birds.
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The dinosaur of the day: Pyroraptor
- Will be in Jurassic World: Dominion
- Colin Trevorrow mentioned in an interview he likes Pyroraptors
- Pyroraptor is also in the games Jurassic World: Alive and Jurassic World: The Game (and has feathers)
- Dromaeosaurid that lived in the Late Cretaceous in what is now Provence, France (La Boucharde locality) and northern Spain (Vitória Formation and the Tremp Group)
- Feathered raptor with a long, thin tail
- Had large claws on the second toes of its feet
- Claws were 2.5 in (6.5 cm) long
- Estimated to be about 5 ft (1.5 m) long and weigh 17 to 22 lb (8 to 10 kg) (rough estimate, hard to say based on fossil evidence)
- Type species is Pyroraptor olympius
- Genus name means “fire thief”
- Fossils found after a forest fire
- Species name refers to Mont Olympe, a mountain in Provence near where the fossils were found
- A single partial skeleton found in 1992
- Described in 2000 by Ronan Allain and Philippe Taquet
- Holotype is the second toe claw of the left foot
- Other specimens include the claw on the right foot, a right ulna (forearm bone), two teeth, vertebrae, and digits
- Two teeth found were flattened and curved backwards, and serrated
- First dromaeosaur fossils found in France were Variraptor (previously thought to be Megalosaurus pannoniensis)
- Allain and Taquet said that Variraptor was a nomen dubium, based on the fossils being poorly preserved and the holotype having no distinguishing features
- In 2009, Buffetaut and Phomphen Chanthasit found Variraptor to be valid, based on the different shapes of the ulnas (lower arm bones)
- May have used claws as weapons or to help climb
- In 2005, Phillip Manning and others modeled a dromaeosaur hindlimb to study how they used their claws
- Built a robotic limb with a hydraulic arm, and based the model on the second digit and claw on an articulated foot of Deinonychus antirrhopus
- Created a claw with an aluminum core and a thin composite sheath of Kevlar and carbon fiber strands
- Tested kicking in a fleshy substrate (fresh pig carcass) and crocodile flesh (though dermal armor protected the crocodile flesh and broke the tip of the claw)
- Did high and low speeds (low (2 m/s) and high (11 m/s) speed)
- Found that it produced small, round puncture wounds (no slashing/cutting) could have killed smaller animals but wouldn’t have been too effective against larger dinosaurs
- May have used claws “as climbing crampons”, where it leapt onto prey, gripped with claws (established footholds) and then inflicted wounds though lots of bites
- Being hooked on, if the prey turned to attack, it would also be turned by and with the prey
- Called it a “fatal embrace,” similar to big cats that dig claws in to cling to prey and use jaws to kill it
- Other animals that lived around the same time and place include the ornithopod Rhabdodon priscus, nodosaurids, titanosaurids, certaosaurians, turtles, alligatorids
- Can also see Pyroraptor in the TV series Dinosaur Planet (Pyroraptor Pod gets stranded on an island after a tsunami, and contacts dwarf dinosaurs like Magyarosaurus and Tarascosaurus)
Two facts about flight:
1) The largest hummingbird is the Giant hummingbird at about 20 grams (under an ounce).
2) Humans have achieved “human powered flight” in specialized airplanes powered by bicycle-driven propellers as well as briefly in a giant flapping contraption.
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