Letter | Published:

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

Nature volume 447, pages 844847 (14 June 2007) | Download Citation

Subjects

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.

Access optionsAccess options

Rent or Buy article

Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.

from$8.99

All prices are NET prices.

References

  1. 1.

    in Amniote Paleobiology: Perspectives on the Evolution of Mammals, Birds, and Reptiles (eds Carrano, M. T., Gaudin, T. J., Blob, R. W. & Wible, J. R.) 225–269 (Univ. Chicago Press, Chicago, 2006)

  2. 2.

    The evolution of dinosaurs. Science 284, 2137–2147 (1999)

  3. 3.

    & A new troodontid from China with avian-like sleeping posture. Nature 431, 838–841 (2004)

  4. 4.

    & in The Dinosauria 2nd edn (eds Weishampel, D. B., Dodson, P. & Osmólska, H.) 184–195 (Univ. California Press, Berkeley, 2004)

  5. 5.

    On a new Late Cretaceous family of small theropods (Oviraptoridae fam. n.) of Mongolia. Dokl. Akad. Nauk SSSR 226, 685–688 (1976)

  6. 6.

    , , & Two feathered dinosaur from China. Nature 393, 753–761 (1998)

  7. 7.

    & A new oviraptorosaur (Theropoda, Maniraptora) from the Late Cretaceous (Campanian) of Utah. J. Vert. Paleont. 25, 897–904 (2005)

  8. 8.

    et al. Gigantism and comparative life-history parameters of tyrannosaurid dinosaurs. Nature 430, 772–775 (2004)

  9. 9.

    The arctometatarsalian pes, an unusual structure of the metatarsus of Cretaceous Theropoda (Dinosauria: Saurischia). J. Vert. Paleont. 14, 480–519 (1994)

  10. 10.

    Long bone scaling and limb posture in non-avian theropods: evidence for differential allometry. J. Vert. Paleont. 19, 666–680 (1999)

  11. 11.

    & Palaeontology, sedimentology and palaeoecology of the Iren Dabasu formation (Upper Cretaceous), inner Mongolia, People's Republic of China. Cretaceous Res. 14, 127–144 (1993)

  12. 12.

    , & Avialan status for Oviraptorosauria. Acta Palaeontol. Pol. 47, 97–116 (2002)

  13. 13.

    , & in The Dinosauria 2nd edn (eds Weishampel, D. B., Dodson, P. & Osmólska, H.) 165–183 (Univ. California Press, Berkeley, 2004)

  14. 14.

    , & Cranial anatomy of Citipati osmolskae (Theropoda, Oviraptorosauria), and a reinterpretation of the holotype of Oviraptor philoceratops. Am. Mus. Novit. 3364, 1–24 (2002)

  15. 15.

    & New caenagnathid (Dinosauria: Theropoda) specimens from the Upper Cretaceous of north America and Asia. Can. J. Earth Sci. 30, 2255–2272 (1993)

  16. 16.

    On Chirostenotes, a Late Cretaceous oviraptorosaur (Dinosauria: Theropoda) from western North America. J. Vert. Paleont. 17, 698–716 (1997)

  17. 17.

    Evolutionary history of sauropod Dinosaurs. Phil. Trans. R. Soc. Lond. B 349, 365–390 (1995)

  18. 18.

    Late Cretaceous birds of southern South America: anatomy and systematics of enantiornithes and Patagopteryx deferrariisi. Munch. Geowiss. Abh 30, 203–244 (1996)

  19. 19.

    , & in New Perspectives on the Origin and Evolution of Birds (eds Gauthier, J. & Gall, L. F.) 49–67 (Yale Univ. Press, New Haven, 2001)

  20. 20.

    The Microstructure of Dinosaur Bone (Johns Hopkins Univ. Press, Baltimore/London, 2005)

  21. 21.

    & Age and growth dynamics of Tyrannosaurus rex. Proc. R. Soc. Lond. B 271, 1875–1880 (2004)

  22. 22.

    et al. Adaptive radiation in sauropod dinosaurs: bone histology indicates rapid evolution of giant body size through acceleration. Org. Divers. Evol. 4, 165–173 (2004)

  23. 23.

    & Non-avian dinosaur fossils from the Lower Cretaceous Jehol Group of western Liaoning, China. Geol. J. 41, 419–438 (2006)

  24. 24.

    , , & Systematics and evolution of Dromaeosauridae (Dinosauria, theropoda). Bull. Gunma Mus. Nat. Hist. 8, 1–20 (2004)

  25. 25.

    Elephants (T. & A. D. Poyser Led, London, 1994)

  26. 26.

    et al. Basal tyrannosauroids from China and evidence for protofeathers in tyrannosauroids. Nature 431, 680–684 (2004)

  27. 27.

    & Anatomy and phylogenetic relationships of the theropod dinosaur Microvenator celer from the Lower Cretaceous of Montanta. Am. Mus. Novit. 3240, 1–27 (1998)

  28. 28.

    Hind limb scaling in birds and other theropods: implications for terrestrial locomotion. J. Morphol. 209, 83–96 (1991)

  29. 29.

    , , & New specimens of Microraptor zhaoianus (Theropoda: Dromaeosauridae) from northeastern China. Am. Mus. Novit. 3381, 1–44 (2002)

  30. 30.

    Possible evidence of gregarious behavior in tyrannosaurids. Gaia 15, 271–277 (1998)

Download references

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.

Author information

Affiliations

  1. Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100044, China

    • Xing Xu
    •  & Xijin Zhao
  2. Long Hao Institute of Geology and Paleontology,

    • Qingwei Tan
    •  & Lin Tan
  3. Department of Land Resources, Hohhot, Nei Mongol 010010, China

    • Jianmin Wang

Authors

  1. Search for Xing Xu in:

  2. Search for Qingwei Tan in:

  3. Search for Jianmin Wang in:

  4. Search for Xijin Zhao in:

  5. Search for Lin Tan in:

Competing interests

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

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Xing Xu.

Supplementary information

PDF files

  1. 1.

    Supplementary Information 1

    This file contains Supplementary Notes, Supplementary Figures 1-2 and additional references.

About this article

Publication history

Received

Accepted

Published

DOI

https://doi.org/10.1038/nature05849

Further reading

Comments

By submitting a comment you agree to abide by our Terms and Community Guidelines. If you find something abusive or that does not comply with our terms or guidelines please flag it as inappropriate.