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Last Updated: Monday, 26 April, 2004, 14:51 GMT 15:51 UK
Dino hunts net rare raptor teeth
Velociraptorine tooth, Dinosaur Isle
The predatory dinosaurs may have hunted in packs
Seven fossil dinosaur teeth unearthed on the Isle of Wight belong to raptors - the predatory dinosaurs made famous by the film Jurassic Park.

The teeth represent only the second example of velociraptorines in the UK and suggest the animals from which they came were surprisingly large.

"It would have been a fairly fearsome beast, I think," said Steven Sweetman of the University of Portsmouth.

The finds are described in an upcoming issue of Cretaceous Research.

They date to the Early Cretaceous Period about 125 million years ago.

The velociraptorines were slender, opportunistic predators that are believed to have hunted in packs. They possessed a characteristic sickle-like toe claw which was used for slicing open and disembowelling prey.

They term velociraptorine refers to a group of dinosaurs that resemble the deadly velociraptors, depicted in Steven Spielberg's 1993 film Jurassic Park.

Mr Sweetman, a postgraduate student at Portsmouth University, found the first tooth in 1972. Since then he has collected three more. A further three teeth came from a private collector.

They come from fossil beds in the south-west of the island and belong to the Wessex Formation which is in turn a sub-division of a much larger formation known as the Wealden.

Raptor rapture

Six of the specimens are the property of the Isle of Wight's Dinosaur Isle museum in Sandown.

"They were always predicted to have been in the fauna but have never been found before," he said.

Based on the size of the teeth, Mr Sweetman believes the beast would have been similar in size to Utahraptor, a dromaeosaur which grew up to 6.5m in length and about 2m tall. But he added that the beast could equally have been of a modest size and just had large teeth.

Utahraptor, BBC
The Isle of Wight finds resemble the American dinosaur Utahraptor
In Early Cretaceous times, the location where the teeth were found was a low-lying river floodplain bounded by a valley. The teeth were found in plant debris beds, the result of charred vegetation and animal matter from a wildfire being transported by a rainstorm.

But the teeth show signs of being shed, which suggests they were either lost naturally or while feeding.

The velociraptorines may have preyed on Iguanodon, a herbivorous dinosaur also known from the Early Cretaceous on the Isle of Wight.

Mr Sweetman said he hoped further digging might unearth bones from the dinosaurs. But, he said, "the Wealden only tends to produce scrappy things rather than skeletons".

The only other velociraptorine found in the UK so far is the species Nuthetes destructor, from the Purbeck limestone beds in Dorset.




SEE ALSO:
Two new dino species discovered
01 Mar 04  |  Science/Nature
Dino family tree shows birds are related
10 Jun 02  |  Science/Nature
Island celebrates its dinosaur past
08 Aug 01  |  Science/Nature
Turbocharged dinosaur
22 Jan 99  |  Science/Nature


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