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A gigantic bird-like dinosaur from the Late Cretaceous of China

Abstract

An evolutionary trend of decreasing size is present along the line to birds in coelurosaurian theropod evolution1,2, but size increases are seen in many coelurosaurian subgroups, in which large forms are less bird-like2,3. Here we report on a new non-avian dinosaur, Gigantoraptor erlianensis, gen. et sp. nov., from the Late Cretaceous Iren Dabasu Formation of Nei Mongol, China. Although it has a body mass of about 1,400 kg, a phylogenetic analysis positions this new taxon within the Oviraptorosauria, a group of small, feathered theropods rarely exceeding 40 kg in body mass2,4,5,6,7. A histological analysis suggests that Gigantoraptor gained this size by a growth rate considerably faster than large North American tyrannosaurs such as Albertosaurus and Gorgosaurus8. Gigantoraptor possesses several salient features previously unknown in any other dinosaur and its hind limb bone scaling and proportions are significantly different from those of other coelurosaurs9,10, thus increasing the morphological diversity among dinosaurs. Most significantly, the gigantic Gigantoraptor shows many bird-like features absent in its smaller oviraptorosaurian relatives, unlike the evolutionary trend seen in many other coelurosaurian subgroups2,3.

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Figure 1: Skeletal anatomy of Gigantoraptor holotype (LH V0011).
Figure 2: Photograph of transverse thin section of the fibular mid-shaft of Gigantoraptor holotype (LH V0011) under a polarized scope.

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Acknowledgements

We thank A. Chinsamy-Turan and G. M. Erickson for discussions on bone histology and critical comments on the histological section, J. A. Clark for comments on the mansuscript, the technicians of the Long Hao Institute of Geology and Paleontology for contributions in the field and for preparation of fossil materials, R.-S. Li and W.-D. Zhang of the Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology for drawings and photography. X.X’s work is supported by grants from the Chinese Academy of Sciences, the National Natural Science Fondation of China, and the American Museum of Natural History. The fieldwork was supported by grants from the Ministry of Land and Resources PRC and the Department of Land and Resources of Nei Mongol.

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Xu, X., Tan, Q., Wang, J. et al. A gigantic bird-like dinosaur from the Late Cretaceous of China. Nature 447, 844–847 (2007). https://doi.org/10.1038/nature05849

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