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The Little Hunter



Early work in the Cloverly Formation of the Bighorn Basin of Montana by the famous collecter/researcher Barnum Brown resulted in the discovery of a small theropod with huge, wonking huge, teeth. Brown would refer to this animal as "Megadontosaurus" in figures and notes, but never prepared a publishable work describing the material, despite prepared figures of many of the bones.

It would not be until several decades later in the same region by AMNH worker John Ostrom that some of the confusion around this specimen, and its teeth, would be revealed:

The teeth belonged to a much larger animal, where the teeth were not so oddly sized, called Deinonychus antirrhopus (counterbalanced terrible claw). But the small skeleton clearly did not belong to that animal, and so Ostrom described it, using Brown's work as a guide, under the name Microvenator celer, the "swift tiny hunter". Comparatively, it is very small, gracile, and at the time, was considered quite unusual.

Now, we know this material to belong to a member of the Oviraptorosauria, but there the certainty ends. While the pelvis is very similar to the now known Caudipteryx, there is enough material to show that it is smaller-footed, possibly longer-tailed, and longer-armed, which are distinctive. The most unusual feature is a Y-shaped element that Brown could not figure out, and in the end, neither could Ostrom or his successors in the collections. It is here interpreted as a portion of the mandible, which was offered as a possible solution by Ostrom, but rather than being a posterior jaw fragment, as a portion of the dentary. The details of this interpretation are more obscure, and in a further submission, I may describe them.
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SpongeBobFossilPants's avatar

Say, how long has this creature been recognized as an oviraptorosaur? I have a hard time imagining it as anything but the generic coelurosaur from a 2001 book of mine.