New Carnivorous Dinosaur Brandished Twice The Toe Claws Of a Velociraptor
As you probably remember from Jurassic Park, Velociraptors (and similar dinosaurs) were known for the terrifying sickle-shaped claws on their toes. And that was just with one on each foot – a newly-discovered dinosaur from a related species was packing twice as many weapons. Vespersaurus paranaensis has been found to brandish two large claws on each foot, supporting itself on just one toe.
Terrible toenails aside, Vespersaurus may not have looked like too much of a threat. It's estimated that the dinosaur stood only 80 cm (31.5 in) tall, measured 1.6 m (5.2 ft) long and weighed just 15 kg (33 lb). Its vertebrae were packed with air-filled cavities like the bones of birds, making it light and probably pretty quick.
But don't let its size fool you – this little carnivore meant business. Its mouth was full of sharp, serrated teeth, and then of course there's the multi-bladed feet. Vespersaurus rested its body weight on one long toe that jutted out from the middle of each foot, leaving the two either side to be raised, with large claws ready for hunting. The team describes the weapons as straighter and sharper than those on related dinosaurs, making them perfect for slicing and slashing.
Vespersaurus is a therapod, which means it's related to famous carnivores like velociraptor and even T-Rex. Given its size though, it was probably limited to hunting small dinosaurs and other animals of the time. The dinosaur was discovered in Paraná, Brazil, and would have lived about 85 million years ago in a desert environment.
Interestingly, the discovery of Vespersaurus helps to solve a long-standing mystery. In the 1970s, paleontologists found some strange fossilized footprints in the same region – footprints that seemed to only have one toe. After running computer tomography scans and digitally reconstructing the feet of the new dinosaur, the researchers were able to confirm that the tracks belonged to Vespersaurus.
The new dinosaur was described in a paper published in the journal Scientific Reports. An animated reconstruction of Vespersaurus, by paleoartist Rodolfo Nogueira, can be seen in this video.