In our 91st episode, we had the pleasure of speaking with Dr. Ellinor Michel, who currently does research at the Natural History Museum, London, Department of Life Sciences, and is the chair of the Trustees and Management Board for Friends of Crystal Palace Dinosaurs.
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In this episode, we discuss:
- The dinosaur of the day: Rapator
- Friedrich von Huene named Rapator in 1932
- Unclear what exactly the name means
- Von Huene did not provide an etymology in his paper, and the word “rapator” doesn’t exist in classical Latin, and sometimes shows up in Medieval Latin and means “violator”. It’s possible Von Huene was going for Latin word “raptare” which means to plunder and thought rapator meant “plunderer” or it was a misspelling of raptor, which means “thief”
- Type species is Rapator ornitholestoides
- Species name means “Ornitholestes-like” and was named that because the Rapator bone found was first considered to be similar to Ornitholestes
- Carnivorous theropod that lived in the early Cretaceous in what is now New South Wales, Australia
- Holotype is of a left hand bone, found in 1905 on the Lightning Ridge (fossil is opalised)
- Bone is 2.75 in (7 cm) long
- Bone is similar to a first finger of an alvarezsaur or a primitive coelurosaurian
- Also similar to Australovenator, which was discovered in 2009, and based on that, thought to be a megaraptoran
- Estimated to be 30 ft (9 m) long, based on being similar to Australovenator (another theropod)
- Australovenator and Rapator may be synonyms (Agnolin and colleagues said in 2010 Rapator was nomen dubium due to only having fragments, but White and a team found differences between the hand bones of Rapator and Austrolovenator. Also Rapator and Austrolovenator were found in different formations that are 10 million years apart, so they’re most likely two different genera)
- Rapator and Walgettosuchus may also be synonyms. Walgettosuchus is a theropod found in the same formation. Only a caudal vertebra of Walgettosuchus was found, so it’s not clear if it is its own genus (also opalised)
- Megaraptora is a group of large carnivorous theropods
- It’s controversial where they stand phylogenetically
- Some scientists think they’re a branch of allosauroids, others think they were coelurosaurs related to tyrannosaurids, and others think they’re avetheropods
- An unnamed dinosaur found in Lightning Ridge in September 2015, known as “Lightning Claw” (may be synonymous with Rapator) shows that megaraptorids probably evolved in Australia, then spread to Gondwana in evolutionary radiation
- Evolutionary radiation is “an increase in taxonomic diversity or morphological disparity, due to adaptive change or the opening of ecospace.”
- Fun fact: The International Commission of Zoological Nomenclature regulates the scientific names of animals. We have talked quite a bit about the “Principle of Priority” which states that the earliest name gets precedence, but there are several other key rules: But in cases where the same author refers to an organism by multiple names, or when multiple people name the same organism at the same time, the “Principle of the First Reviser” applies. Basically the first subsequent author who chooses and publishes a decision of which name should be followed gets to decide. This is effectively how Antrodemus valens was chosen over Poicilopleuron valens. Of course later, Antrodemus was considered a nomen dubium because the only known fossil came from an unknown location and is of such poor quality compared to similar Allosaurus fossils.
For those who may prefer reading, see below for the full transcript of our interview with Dr. Ellinor Michel:Continue Reading …