I don’t mean to make this blog all about dinosaurs, but I saw this one on the news and couldn’t resist.
The image above was originally published by the german press on Der Spiegel, and later posted on the Nature News blog. It shows an almost complete fossil of a juvenile theropod (same subgroup of the T.rex but this species is still unknown) found by Oliver Rauhut of Bavarian paleontological and ecological collections (BSPF) in Munich, Germany.
The paper describing this specimen has not been released yet, so the only information available comes from the press release above. Apparently it was also presented as part of the conference IV Congresso Latinoamericano: Paleontologia de Vertebrados that took place in San Juan, Argentina, last month. Listed in the presentation schedule is the following talk: “Rauhut, I. & Foth, C. New information on Late Jurassic Theropod dinosaurs from Southern Germany”.
The Der Spiegle article mentions imprints of skin and protofeathers. (Curiosly, the international press divulged it as “fur”, from a german word incorrectly translated.) Many theropods are known to have had protofeathers, all belonging to the subgroup named coelurosaurs. If this specimen proves to be part of a different subgroup, it might imply the presence of feather-like structures in many other theropods. The identification of this species of theropod might prove tricky: in the past, many fossils that were named as new species turned out to be juvenile versions of previously known creatures.
Younger versions of many dinosaurs have been found, for example, a juvenile fossil of T-rex (nicknamed “Jane”) is much smaller than well known adult skeletons (such as “Sue”).
The image above comes from a paper by Hutchinson et al (2011), where the authors study the muscular growth that accompanies a T. rex, based on known skeletons from Jane, Sue and others. Besides the taller stature, Sue has a much bulkier torso and thighs when compared to Jane.
Will the bavarian dinosaur prove to be a juvenile version of a known theropod – in which growth and size relationships can be speculated like the study above – or a completely new species?