Fossils in Focus: Dromaeosaurus

Have I mentioned I collect dinosaur bones before? No? You didn’t read that one?

Well, it’s true…

Of all the hobbies I could possibly have, I may have chosen one of the strangest. I’ll be honest, there’s a lot that goes into finding these fossils. Time, patience, money, and knowing what it is you’re looking for. That last one doesn’t come easy. There’s definitely some trial and error, and that’s what led me to these two fossils – fossils belonging to a dinosaur known as the Dromaeosaurus.

Dromaeosaurus is derived from the Greek word dromeus, which means runner, and sauros, meaning lizard. The direct translation is “fast-running lizard.” It lived during the late cretaceous period, between 80-69 million years ago, and could be found in, what is now, Alberta, Canada and other parts of the western United States. This carnivorous dinosaur could grow up to 2 meters long and weigh as much (or as little) as 33 lbs. fully grown. Like many other raptors, its mouth was full of serrated, sharp teeth and featured one deadly sickle-like claw on each foot. It was first found in 1914 during an expedition to Red Deer River, now a part of Dinosaur Provincial Park, by Barnum Brown. Unfortunately, despite its popularity, it’s still not well known since most of the Dromaeosaurus fossils have only surfaced recently and are commonly confused with some of its other dinosaur cousins, such as Dakotaraptor.

Fun fact: The Dromaeosaurus may have had a sickle-like claw as other raptors did, but it’s believed that it didn’t use it for killing its prey. The size and shape of its head suggest that Dromaeosaurus used its wicked bite instead, preferring to crush and slice its victims. The level of wear on the tooth fossils found seems to support this theory, and scientists believe that Dromaeosaurus had a bite over three times stronger than that of Velociraptor.

Now, I know what you’re thinking! “Hey! That kind of looks like that dinosaur from Jurassic Park! You know, the scary one!”

The Dromaeosaurus may look familiar to the untrained eye, and while it does share some relation to the Velociraptor, it’s actually a different genus altogether. And that’s the trap I fell into. Being a fan of the Jurassic Park movies, I was already aware of the misrepresentation of Velociraptor and Deinonychus. If you weren’t aware, Michael Crichton basically used Deinonychus for the books and the movies because of its size and threatening appearance and then named it Velociraptor because it was more dramatic. While this achieved the desired effect, they should not be used as an actual interpretation of either dinosaur. I had every intention of acquiring pieces that belonged to an actual Velociraptor (a much smaller dinosaur than what is pictured in the movies). What I did not anticipate were just how many different types of raptors there were. That lack of education and research led to me buying two fossils I had not planned on buying. Was I disappointed? Far from it! I was ecstatic to learn more about a dinosaur that I hardly knew anything about. But it did emphasize the importance of making sure you’re aware of what you are doing when purchasing fossils. It can lead to some fun and fascinating things, but you may not be getting what you think you’re getting. The potential of ending up with something fake is also a real possibility…but more on that later.

These two fossils are 100% genuine, and while small, hold a special place in my collection. Why? Besides both pieces being in great condition, they also represent an excellent learning experience!

The first piece is actually a fragment of an eggshell from a Dromaeosaurus. It’s only 0.75″ x 0.6″ big and may actually be the smallest piece I have in my collection. It was purchased from a fossil shop in Drumheller, Alberta. While it may not be much to look at, the texture and the detail are really fantastic, making it a prized addition.

The second piece I have in my collection is a tooth from a Dromaeosaurus, which does a fantastic job of showing why these creatures were so deadly. It may only stand approximately 0.8″ tall, but the serrated edge is bound to do its work! Imagine being bitten by a whole row of these. Ouch! This fossil was found in Kem Kem Basin in Morocco and purchased through a reputable dealer online.

Fun fact: The Domaeosaurus was, originally, thought to have been a much larger dinosaur because of the size of its brain. When found, scientists believed that something with a brain that big must have been at least twice the size of Dromaeosaurus. Now that’s one smart girl!

Well, that about wraps that up. I hope you learned something about the Dromaeosaurus and about the wonderful world of collecting fossils.

I bet you’re asking, “he can’t possibly write another one of these, can he?”

You bet Jurassican!!!

Stay tuned! There’s plenty more to come!

Cover Image Credit: dcp1173

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