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New evidence on deinonychosaurian dinosaurs from the Late Cretaceous of Patagonia


Most of what is known about the evolution of deinonychosaurs (that is, the group of theropods most closely related to birds) is based on discoveries from North America and Asia1. Except for Unenlagia comahuensis2,3 and some fragmentary remains from northern Africa4, no other evidence was available on deinonychosaurian diversity in Gondwana. Here we report a new, Late Cretaceous member of the clade, Neuquenraptor argentinus gen. et sp. nov., representing uncontroversial evidence of a deinonychosaurian theropod in the Southern Hemisphere. The new discovery demonstrates that Cretaceous theropod faunas from the southern continents shared greater similarity with those of the northern landmasses than previously thought. Available evidence suggests that deinonychosaurians were probably distributed worldwide at least by the beginning of the Cretaceous period. The phylogenetic position of the new deinonychosaur, as well as other Patagonian coelurosaurian theropods, is compatible with a vicariance model of diversification for some groups of Gondwanan and Laurasian dinosaurs.

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Figure 1: Neuquenraptor argentinus, MCF PVPH 77, holotype.
Figure 2: Reduced strict consensus depicting the phylogenetic relationships of Neuquenraptor argentinus within Maniraptora.

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We thank X. Xing, O. Rauhut, M. Norell and P. Makovicky for comments and discussion on this subject; R. A. Coria for the loan of Neuquenraptor argentinus specimens; M. Norell for access to new specimens of Velociraptor mongoliensis; J. Ostrom and J. A. Gauthier for access to Deinonychus antirrhopus; X. Xing and P. Currie for access to several maniraptoran specimens; A. Scanferla for technical preparation of the specimen; and J. González for the illustrations. Fieldwork was supported by the National Geographic Society. This study was sponsored by Conicet, Agencia Nacional de Promoción Científica y Tecnológica, The Dinosaur Society, The Jurassic Foundation, Akapol SA, and Renault Argentina (Buenos Aires).

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Correspondence to Fernando E. Novas.

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Supplementary Data

This file gathers information about character distribution among coelurosaurian dinosaurs, phylogenetic results and cladograms supporting the hypothesis explained in the text. (DOC 46 kb)

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Novas, F., Pol, D. New evidence on deinonychosaurian dinosaurs from the Late Cretaceous of Patagonia. Nature 433, 858–861 (2005).

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