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The earliest dromaeosaurid theropod from South America

Nature volume 437, pages 10071011 (13 October 2005) | Download Citation



The evolutionary history of Maniraptora, the clade of carnivorous dinosaurs that includes birds and the sickle-clawed Dromaeosauridae, has hitherto been largely restricted to Late Jurassic and Cretaceous deposits on northern continents. The stunning Early Cretaceous diversity of maniraptorans from Liaoning, China1,2,3, coupled with a longevity implied by derived Late Jurassic forms such as Archaeopteryx, pushes the origins of maniraptoran lineages back to Pangaean times and engenders the possibility that such lineages existed in Gondwana. A few intriguing, but incomplete, maniraptoran specimens have been reported from South America4,5,6,7,8, Africa9 and Madagascar10. Their affinities remain contested11,12,13, however, and they have been interpreted as biogeographic anomalies relative to other faunal components of these land-masses. Here we describe a near-complete, small dromaeosaurid that is both the most complete and the earliest member of the Maniraptora from South America, and which provides new evidence for a unique Gondwanan lineage of Dromaeosauridae with an origin predating the separation between northern and southern landmasses.

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We thank the Avelás and Salinas families, C. Muñoz, L. Fernández and the 2004 La Buitrera field crew for their help in the field; J. A. González, P. Chiarelli, M. Brown, J. Holstein, L. Herzog, A. Shinya, C. Van Beek and D. Wagner for preparing the holotype; J. Weinstein for photography, M. H. Donnelly for retouching Fig. 1; J. González for the reconstruction of Buitreraptor; S. de Valais for help and discussion during the early stages of this work; D. Pol for reading the manuscript and providing advice; and F. E. Novas and R. A. Coria for providing access to materials in their care. Fieldwork and preparation was facilitated by the Agencia Cultura of Río Negro Province and supported by The Jurassic Foundation (S.A.) and NASA (P.J.M.), and research was supported by the NSF (P.J.M.).

Author information


  1. Department of Geology, The Field Museum, 1400 South Lake Shore Drive, Chicago, Illinois 60605, USA

    • Peter J. Makovicky
  2. Sección de Paleontología de Vertebrados,

    • Sebastián Apesteguía
  3. Laboratorio de Anatomía Comparada, Museo Argentino de Ciencias Naturales ‘Bernardino Rivadavia’, Av. Ángel Gallardo 470, Buenos Aires (1405), Argentina

    • Federico L. Agnolín
  4. Fundación de Historia Natural ‘Félix de Azara’, CAECNA, Universidad Maimónides, V. Virasoro 732, Buenos Aires (1405), Argentina

    • Sebastián Apesteguía


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Reprints and permissions information is available at npg.nature.com/reprintsandpermissions. The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Corresponding authors

Correspondence to Peter J. Makovicky or Sebastián Apesteguía.

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