Page last updated at 00:26 GMT, Friday, 19 March 2010

Velociraptor's cousin discovered

By Victoria Gill
Science reporter, BBC News

image of fossil

Scientists have discovered a new species of dinosaur that was closely related to the Velociraptor.

The 1.8m-long predator was a dromaeosaurid - a family of theropod dinosaurs from which modern birds descended.

The researchers discovered its exquisitely well preserved skeleton in sediments dating from the Upper Cretaceous period in Inner Mongolia.

They describe the find in the journal Zootaxa.

The fossilised skeleton was in almost perfect condition - with complete claws and teeth - despite being between 145 and 65 million years old.

Its examination was led by Xing Xu from the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing.

He and his colleagues described several distinguishing features, particularly of its jaw and feet, that enabled them to identify it as a dromaeosaurid - a name that means "running lizard".

It had, for example, what the researchers described as "raptorial claws" on its feet.

The highly evolved predator, which has been named Linheraptor exquisitus represents an entirely new genus within that family.

"Linheraptor is similar to Velociraptor in many features," wrote the scientists.

They pointed out, however, that it was not Velociraptor's closest relative within the dromaeosaurid family.



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