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culture

ROM Has a Shiny New Raptor on Display

Scientists with the Royal Ontario Museum have identified and named a new species of dinosaur.

Photo by Corbin Smith.

We Torontonions love our raptors, so much so that we chose the charismatic carnivore from the Jurassic Park movies as the name of our NBA franchise back in 1994, delighting Steven Spielberg and beating out other ’90s pop culture-themed submissions like the Toronto Gimps, and the Toronto Hooties and the Blowfish.

So it’s exciting that a new species of raptor has been discovered by paleontologists working under the auspices of the Royal Ontario Museum.

The identification of the new dinosaur was based on a fossilized upper and lower jawbone originally uncovered in the Hell Creek Formation of Montana, and the species has been named Acheroraptor temertyorum. “Achero” is derived from “Acheron,” the River of Pain in the underworld of Greek mythology and a reference to the specimen’s place of origin, while termertyorum is a nod to local philanthropists James and Louise Temerty for their contributions to the ROM.

Photo courtesy of the Royal Ontario Museum.

Acheroraptor was brought to light by a team of palaeontologists including Dr. David Evans, Curator of Vertebrate Palaeontology at the ROM; Dr. Phillip Currie, professor at the University of Alberta; and Derek Larson, a Ph.D. student at the University of Toronto. Evans told Torontoist that the find is important because it’s concrete evidence of something that has until now been suspected but unproven—raptors co-existed with species like Tyrannosaurus rex and Triceratops until the end of the Cretaceous period and the massive saurian extinction event which cleared the decks for mammalian domination.

Image courtesy of the Royal Ontario Museum.

Acheroraptor was large by raptor standards, weighing about 40 kilograms, and measuring some three metres long from snout to tail. (The famous velociraptor was super-sized for Hollywood purposes, according to Evans—the real animal would have been about the size of a German shepherd.) Acheroraptor would have stood with its head around the belly level of the average human and was most likely covered in feathers, which would have given you something to stroke while it ripped open your stomach and feasted on your steaming entrails.

Image courtesy of the Royal Ontario Museum.

Evans discovered the fossil in the hands of a private collector in the U.S., and recognized that it was something that hadn’t been seen before. He was particularly excited because it was a jawbone: “It was our first good face-based look at a raptor in North America for the last dinosaur era. We knew they were around, but didn’t know about species affinities or where it fit into the family tree. The jaws preserve the most relevant info.”

Photo by Corbin Smith.

The owner was able to provide data on the location of the find (knowing the rock bed from which a fossil has been recovered can be key in establishing its age), and when advised of its likely importance, worked actively with Evans and others to get it into the museum. After the ROM acquired the fossil, the team researched it for three years to confirm that it actually represented a new species.

If you’re interested in viewing Acheroraptor in the flesh, so to speak, you can take in the fossils at the ROM Age of Dinosaurs Exhibit, where they’ll be on display through the holiday season, before being added to the museum’s permanent collection.

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