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Ornitholestes

By ScottHartman
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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 www.patreon.com/skeletaldrawin… 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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Comments69
anonymous's avatar
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DinoBrian47's avatar
So does that make Ornitholestes a primitive maniraptorian?
ScottHartman's avatar
Depending on the phylogenetic analysis, yes.
DinoBrian47's avatar
Alright, then. I guess it's nice to see that "Jurassic raptors" really did exist. :)
DinoBrian47's avatar
Well, I didn't mean actual deinonychosaurs, just their closest relatives.
DinoBrian47's avatar
Why Marshosaurus?
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ScottHartman's avatar
Raptors don't exist until the Cenozoic. Or did you mean deinonychosaurs? ;)
DinoBrian47's avatar
I actually meant deinonychosaurs and their closest relatives, not the birds of prey.
ScottHartman's avatar
I knew that's what you meant, but it's really preferable to use the proper terms, rather than one that is more correctly used for another group of dinosaurs. :)
DinoBrian47's avatar
Would coelurosaurians be okay?
TheDubstepAddict's avatar
zackilamiahavok's avatar
Thank you for your beautiful skeletals!  Just finished a quick sketch of Ornitholestes hermanni based on your skeletal reconstruction (feather pattern from the theory that it may fit into the Microraptor clade).  It's here, if you're interested in checking it out!

I look forward to being continuously inspired by your work!
Gojira5000's avatar
Looking between Ornitholestes and Jiangchangosaurus (and other basal therizinosaurs) they seem to have quite a few similarities; maybe Ornitholestes is a very basal therizinosaur?

Probably not, but it's interesting to hypothesize, nonetheless.
Mirroraptor's avatar
Maybe or not;in many Tree Ornitholestes was on the backbone of Maniraptoriformes and far fron Therizino.We still don't know what has happend between the backbone Miniraptoriformes and Fukuivenator-specialized carpel and finger,maybe mean that there is a climbing animal.(My English was pool and maybe made a lot of mistakes,I'm sorry about it.)
Pyroraptor42's avatar
I miss its "horn", but I like how now is a "proto-deinonychosaur" :)
TheropodHunter's avatar
This was one of my favourites as a kid. 
ScottHartman's avatar
My only memories of Ornitholestes as a kid are that it was the dinosaur always chasing Archaeopteryx in paintings.
CommonHouseGecko's avatar
"My only memories of Ornitholestes as a kid are that it was the dinosaur always chasing Archaeopteryx in paintings"
I remember this cliche'. In my young mind Ornitholestes was the jurassic equivalent of Willy E. Coyote (and given its ecological niche that was not so far from true).
TheropodHunter's avatar
"Walking With Dinosaurs" introduced me to Ornitholestes. Good show, but has some flaws. 
ScottHartman's avatar
Anatomically it has a _lot_ of flaws, but it was still one of the first to at least try and treat dinosaurs like real animals.
TheropodHunter's avatar
Ah yes, good point. 
anonymous's avatar
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