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DrScottHartman's avatar


This is the classic small theropod from North America, but it turns out that Ornitholestes has been harder to pin down than researchers originally thought. It appears to be more closely related to birds than the allosaur-grade theropod that some thought. While it's not as close to Paraves as say oviraptosaurs, there are a couple features that seem to be "proto-deinonychosaur" in general, including the narrowing and somewhat stiffened distal tail, and a sort of incipient "killer claw" on the second toe. I wish more was known of the wrist and pectoral girdle, but for now they are speculations based on where Ornitholestes comes out in phylogenetic studies. Even at this stage of bird evolution Ornitholestes was almost certainly covered in a fur-like feather covering, and quite possibly sported proto-wings on its hands and tail.

Edit 2016: I was treated to some high resolution images, some from angles not previously available in print. It turns out that the pelvis did not have a vertical pubis, and the hind legs were more robust than my earlier skeletal.

I posted this right away (I don't want new art to be done without it), but my Patreon supporters… a behind the scenes look that showed what has changed between the original version in 2007, the 2013 revision, and the current update.
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DinoBrian47's avatar
So does that make Ornitholestes a primitive maniraptorian?