The fossils of a dog-sized dinosaur with lethal claws have been unearthed in Northwestern Alberta in Canada. The new species, which is a cousin of the Velociraptor, was named Boreonykus.
The fossils were discovered by an Australian paleontologist at the Pipestone Creek bonebed, which is a massive grave site of the herbivore Pachyrhinosaurus lakustai dinosaur that lived about 73 million years ago.
The fossilized bones of the Boreonykus were unearthed from the piles of another dinosaur's bones. According to Phil Bell, a lecturer at the University of New England's School of Environmental and Rural Science, the Boreonykus is a cousin of the famous Velociraptor that was made popular by the "Jurassic Park" movies.
"The bones we have shown, it would have had big hand and foot claws, a real killing claw," Bell said. The Boreonykus is smaller, about the size of a dog at 2 meters long. But this dog-sized dinosaur had large lethal claws on both hands and feet.
"The claws would have been used to hunt down prey. We have a handful of teeth that are like serrated steak knives. These would have been pretty savage predators," said Bell.
According to Bell, the discovery of the Boreonykus is a significant one because it provides new information on how raptors roamed the lands and adapted to the changing environment. With its closest cousins coming from Mongolia, Bell theorized that the Boreonykus species must have crossed a land bridge that once connected Northern Asia with North America.
The first Boreonykus fossil bones were found in 1988, but left unstudied in an Alberta-based museum for approximately 25 years. When more bones were found in the same area in 2012, the interest in the Boreonykus bones reached new heights.
The researchers don't have an entire skeleton yet, but based on the uncovered bones, they found that the Boreonykus is a cousin of the Velociraptor. They hypothesized that the skin of the new raptor is probably feathered to help them withstand fierce winters in Northern Canada.
The findings were published in the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology.