New Dakotaraptor Species Discovered in South Dakota's Hell Creek Formation

November 3, 2015

Imagine a raptor that is not about the size of a dog but rather a length of more than 16 feet with a killing claw that was 7.5 inches in length. That is how big this new species of Dromaeosaur was when it was an eminent predator in what is now South Dakota. 

dakotaraptor steini

 Emily Willoughby

Dakotaraptor steini is the largest raptor to come out of South Dakota's Hell Creek Formation.

Dakotaraptor steini, was a beast of a raptor that lived during the late Cretaceous period. It sported quill knobs on the ulna, giving the scientists who discovered it pause. They speculate that the wings on this beast were not strong enough to give it flight capabilities, but think that Dakotaraptor steini used its wings to stabilize itself while it subdued its prey.


university of kansas

Skeletal reconstruction of Dakotaraptor holotype based on available material for Utahraptor, Dromaeosaurus, Deinonychus, and Achillobator, demonstrating overall proportions and the large size of the creature. Preserved elements shown in insert.


Dakotaraptor steini, named after Bill Stein of PaleoAdventures, is just the second Dromaeosaur discovered in the Hell Creek Formation in South Dakota, and the first giant Dromaeosaur discovered in Hell Creek Formation. It is the most recent discovery of a raptor worldwide. The scientists say that the discovery of this species changes the dynamic of the Hell Creek Formation. Whereas carnivorous dinosaurs in the formation traditionally consisted of large tyrannosaurids and small maniraptorans, the discovery of Dakotaraptor changes their view of the paleoecology of Hell Creek and fills the gap between the larger and smaller dinosaurs.

The scientists who contributed to the paper on this species include Robert A. DePalma, David A. Burnham, Larry D. Martin, Peter L. Larson, and Robert T. Bakker. The complete paper describing this species can be read on the University of Kansas website

John Virata keeps a western hognose snake, a ball python, two corn snakes, a king snake, and two leopard geckos. His first snake, a California kingsnake, was purchased for $5. His first pet reptile was a green anole that arrived in a small box via mail order. Follow him on Twitter @johnvirata 


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