SOURCE: Cleveland Museum of Natural History

Cleveland Museum of Natural History

September 21, 2016 15:45 ET

New Ostrich-Mimic Dinosaur From Alberta Named for Its Ability to Evade Predators

CLEVELAND, OH--(Marketwired - September 21, 2016) - Dr. Michael Ryan of The Cleveland Museum of Natural History was part of an international group of researchers that announced the discovery of a new ostrich-mimic dinosaur, Rativates evadens, from the lower Dinosaur Park Formation near Dinosaur Provincial Park, Alberta. The new species lived about 76 million years ago during the Late Cretaceous Period. Research describing the new species is now published online in the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology.

Based on a partial skeleton collected by the Royal Ontario Museum in 1934 from badlands adjacent to what is now Dinosaur Provincial Park, Rativates (RAT-iv-ATE-eez) would have resembled a modern ostrich, but with long, fingered arms instead of wings, and a long tail. It would have been approximately 3.3 meters (11 feet) long, about 1.5 meters (5 feet) tall and weighed about 90 kilograms (200 pounds).

"Rativates was previously identified as another specimen of the more common ostrich-mimic dinosaur Struthiomimus altus, but lacks the key diagnostic characters of that species," said lead author Bradley McFeeters, a Ph.D. student in the Department of Earth Sciences at Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada. "We can tell that it is a new species based on features of its skull, tail, pelvis and feet, including the shape of the long bones of the feet."

Rativates (Latin ratis + vates) means "ratite (large flightless bird) foreteller" and alludes to the paradox of an ostrich-mimic dinosaur existing before ostriches. The name evadens means to evade, in reference to this swift-footed dinosaur's ability to evade predators in the Late Cretaceous, as well as its recognition as a new species 80 years following the discovery of the original fossil.

"The referral of fossils to the named species of ostrich-mimic dinosaurs like Struthiomimus is complicated because many specimens are incomplete. The recognition of Rativates helps clear up these problems, and at the same time strengthens a connection between Canadian ornithomimids and their Asian cousins," said co-author Dr. Michael Ryan, curator of vertebrate paleontology at The Cleveland Museum of Natural History, who was co-supervisor to the lead author.

Although it is a member of the carnivorous dinosaurs (Theropoda), ornithomimids such as Rativates lacked teeth and, similar to birds, had beaked mouths. They are believed to have been omnivorous, meaning they ate plants, insects and other small animals. Their long, powerful legs would have made them fast runners (like the Gallimimus in the original Jurassic Park movie), whether they were hunting prey or escaping from larger predators, like Gorgosaurus.

Although no skin impressions were found with the fossil, the closely related ornithomimid, Ornithomimus, also from Alberta, is known to have had a downy covering over most of its body. It may have had true feathers as well.

"We histologically thin-sectioned the femur of Rativates to analyze its growth and determined it was at least eight years old and nearly adult-sized at the time of death. This is only 80 percent as long, and half as massive as, the adult size of the closely related species Struthiomimus altus, that is estimated to have weighed approximately 175 kilograms (~385 pounds)", said co-author Thomas Cullen, a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Toronto.

"This suggests that there are at least two differently-sized, but closely-related dinosaur species that lived together on the ancient landscape, similar to what we see today in the closely related predators like foxes, coyotes and wolves," said McFeeters' former co-supervisor and co-author Claudia Schröder-Adams, of the Department of Earth Sciences at Carleton University.

"Rativates is another exciting example of a new species of dinosaur being discovered among museum collections," said Ryan. "These valuable collections allow modern researchers to build on the work of earlier scientists to advance what we know about the ancient Earth and provide new insights into evolution."

Images and video available at www.cmnh.org/rativates

Article: McFeeters, B., M. J. Ryan, C. Schröder-Adams, and T. M. Cullen. 2016. A new ornithomimid theropod from the Dinosaur Park Formation of Alberta, Canada. Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology.
DOI: 10.1080/02724634.2016.1221415.

About The Cleveland Museum of Natural History
The Cleveland Museum of Natural History, incorporated in 1920, is one of the finest institutions of its kind in North America. It is noted for its collections, research, educational programs and exhibits. The collections encompass millions of artifacts and specimens, and research of global significance focuses on 10 natural science disciplines. The Museum conserves biological diversity through the protection of more than 7,400 acres of natural areas. It promotes health education with local programs and distance learning that extends across the globe. Its GreenCityBlueLake Institute is a center of thought and practice for the design of green and sustainable cities.

About Carleton University
Carleton University is a dynamic, interdisciplinary research-intensive institution with a creative international approach to research that has led to many significant discoveries and works in science and engineering, business, public affairs and the arts. Home to many noted award-winning researchers, Carleton is uniquely committed to discovery, knowledge, and understanding of the world around us. Carleton University's location in Ottawa -- the nation's capital allows unique access for our researchers across many disciplines to such places as Canada's national labs and museums, Library and Archives Canada, federal government departments, and of course, Parliament Hill. Through the building of sustainable communities, we foster new ideas to create a more prosperous future for Canada and the world.

About the University of Toronto
Established in 1827, the University of Toronto is Canada's largest university, recognized as a global leader in research and teaching. The university consistently ranks among the top 25 universities in the world. Its distinguished faculty, institutional record of ground-breaking scholarship and wealth of innovative academic opportunities continually attract outstanding academics and students from around the world.

About the Royal Ontario Museum
Opened in 1914, Canada's largest museum of natural history and world cultures has six million objects in its collections and galleries showcasing art, archaeology and natural science. Collections and research are the basis of the ROM's international reputation. The ROM is the largest field-research institution in Canada with research and conservation activities that span the globe. At the forefront of such international projects as the Barcode of Life, the ROM originates new information towards a global understanding of historical and modern change in culture and environment. The Royal Ontario Museum is an agency of the Government of Ontario's Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sports. For 24-hour information in English and French, please call 416.586.8000 or visit the ROM's web site at www.rom.on.ca

About Dinosaur Provincial Park
Dinosaur Provincial Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, selected, in part for preserving one of the richest assemblages of Late Cretaceous dinosaurs fossils in the world. The Park is located just NE of Brooks, Alberta, and offers many interpretive programs into the areas accessible only by guided tour.

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