Approximately 71 million years ago, a new species of dinosaur with a body streamlined like a duck may have exploited its abilities to forage for prey underwater like current penguins.
These discoveries mark the first instance of a non-avian theropod, a category of two-legged carnivorous dinosaur, having a streamlined body called as a Natovenator . The research was released on 1st December 2022 in the journal Communications Biology.
Theropod dinosaurs, also known as “beast-footed” dinosaurs, are a varied group of bipedal sauropods. The largest terrestrial carnivores to ever shake the planet are among them. Although modern theropods like T. rex and Deinonychus are gone, current research has conclusively demonstrated that birds are actually the offspring of tiny, non-flying theropods.
What are Non-avian theropods?
What are Non-avian theropods? Numerous studies have focused on the diversity and macroevolutionary tendencies of these organisms.
Earlier research has shown how streamlined bodies assist diving animals like geese and penguins in overcoming drag underwater.
However, according to researchers, including Yuong-Nam Lee from Seoul National University in South Korea, comparable body forms have not been observed in non-avian dinosaurs.
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In the current study, scientists used the fossilized remains of a specimen from the Mongolian province of Omnogovi, which contained a head, spinal column, one forelimb, and two hindlimbs, to identify the new species.
What did the Natovenator look like?
According to the findings, the dinosaur may have had a number of modifications that may have transformed it into a marine gastropod diving carnivore with a sleek body like modern diving birds and ribs that pointed toward its tail.
Additionally, they discovered proof that the dino had such a long neck, just like contemporary water birds like geese.
According to researchers, these modifications may have lessened drag forces because Natovenator travelled through water in search of prey.
This particular dorsal rib morphology, they wrote in the study, “clearly suggests that Natovenator was a competent diver, offering the first compelling proof of a streamlined body in a non-avian theropod dinosaur.” This is because streamlining of the torso provides hydrodynamic advantages during swimming.
Natovenator’s distinct features
The investigation also showed that, in contrast to the size of its jaw, the dinosaur possessed an extremely high number of teeth. This, according to scientists, may be evidence that it consumed fish or insects as food.
To support this theory, they contend that more data is required, such as the stomach contents’ fossilized remains. According to researchers, Natovenator was closely connected to halszkaraptorines, a group of dinosaurs that were related to it and may have evolved a semiaquatic lifestyle similar to that of contemporary waterfowl.
According to the study’s authors, Natovenator’s body shape “suggests that it was a potentially proficient aquatic carnivore, and the streamlined body developed separately in different lineages of theropod dinosaurs.”
Origins of the Natovenator
Originating from a genus called halszkaraptorine dromaeosaurids- Natovenator is found in Mongolia’s Late Cretaceous Barun Goyot Formation. One species, N. polydontus, makes up the entirety of the genus. Given that it offers more evidence in favor of the semi-aquatic living that has been hypothesized for this group, Natovenator is essential to comprehending halszkaraptorines. The semi-aquatic lives of halszkaraptorines were disputed earlier in 2022, therefore this discovery is very significant.
Natovenator’s body would have caused less drag while floating as it had ribs that pointed toward its posterior and a long neck similar to contemporary aquatic birds like geese. The researchers hypothesize that Natovenator utilised its forelimbs to push itself through the water by examining the physiological qualities of Halszkaraptor, a theropod that is the dinosaur’s closest relative and another semi-aquatic theropod would be a penguin.
Natovenator is officially added to the genus of halszkaraptorine theropod dinosaurs
In the Omnogovi Province of Mongolia, sediments from the Barun Goyot Formation revealed the Natovenator holotype specimen, MPC-D 102/114. It comprises of a nearly fully developed cranium and an articulated skeleton.
Based on these fossils, Sungjin Lee, Robin Sissons, Jin-Young Park, Su-Hwan Kim, Rinchen Barsbold, and Khishigjav Tsogtbaatar, Yuong-Nam Lee, Philip J. Currie, identified Natovenator polydontus as a new species and genus of halszkaraptorine theropod dinosaurs in 2022. In relation to its piscivorous diet and potential aquatic behaviour, the generic name “Natovenator” is a combination of the Latin words “nato,” which means “to swim,” and “venator,” which means “hunter.” The particular name “polydontus” originates from the Greek words “polys,” which means “many,” and “odous,” which means “tooth.”
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