Sinraptor – not a “Raptor” at All
Discovered by a joint Canadian/Chinese expedition to the north-west of China in 1987 led by eminent palaeontologists Dr Phil Currie and Xian Zhao, this large meat-eating dinosaur would have probably been the apex predator in the area during the Middle to Late Jurassic. Sinraptor was formerly named and described in 1994. The species name is Sinraptor dongi, in honour of the famous Chinese palaeontology professor Dong Zhiming, who is reputed to have named and described more dinosaurs than any other scientist over the last 30 years or so. He is one of the most important scientists within China and a leading light in the field of dinosaur fossil study.
There are believed to be at least two species ascribed to the Sinraptor genus, although there is still debate over the exact taxonomy of this species in relation to its close relative Yangchuanosaurus. Both Sinraptor and Yangchuanosaurus have been classified into the Family Sinraptoridae, both these dinosaurs share typical allosaur features and a lightened skull. However, the few fossils of Sinraptor found are from sediments that are several million years older than Yangchuanosaurus. Evidently, these animals were the biggest predators in Asia during the mid to late Jurassic.
An Illustration of Sinraptor
Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur
To see a scale model of Sinraptor and other theropod dinosaur replicas: Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal Models.
To date, very few fossils of large carnivores are known from this part of China. Fortunately, one nearly complete fossilised skeleton of Sinraptor has been found. This animal was not fully grown, it is a sub-adult, not a mature animal. Estimates of the size of this allosaur vary as a result, but scientists believe that this dinosaur may have been up to 8 metres long. Yangchuanosaurus may have been slightly larger, perhaps reaching lengths in excess of 10 metres, making Yangchuanosaurus comparable in size to Allosaurus fragilis of the Morrison Formation in the United States.
The name Sinraptor means “Chinese Thief or Plunderer”. This is an unusual name for a member of the Allosauridae, as this particular theropod is not closely related to the dromaeosaurs, those dinosaurs made famous by films such as the “Jurassic Park” trilogy, otherwise known as the “raptors”.
A full-size model of Sinraptor can be seen outside the Institute of Vertebrate Palaeontology and Palaeoanthropology in Beijing. This particular museum is reputed to house the largest collection of vertebrate fossils in the world, with something like 200,000 specimens in its collection.