17-foot-long Dakotaraptor Had Feathered Wings

Scientists have discovered a new giant raptor believed to be the largest specimen ever found with wing feathers.

Named Dakotaraptor, the fossil from the Hell Creek Formation in South Dakota is thought to be about 17 feet long, making it among the largest raptors in the world.

“This new predatory dinosaur also fills the body size gap between smaller theropods and large tyrannosaurs that lived at this time,” says David Burnham, a paleontologist at the University of Kansas.

Robert DePalma, curator of vertebrate paleontology at the Palm Beach Museum of Natural History and lead author of the research, led the expedition to South Dakota where the specimen was found. At the time, he was a graduate student studying with former University of Kansas paleontology professor and curator Larry Martin, who died in 2014.

“This Cretaceous period raptor would have been lightly built and probably just as agile as the vicious smaller theropods, such as the Velociraptor,”

says lead author Robert DePalma.


Dakotaraptor’s huge “killing claw.” (Credit: U. Kansas)

Both fossils showed evidence of “quill knobs” where feathers would have been attached to the forearm of the dinosaur. The researchers say this also demonstrates that flightlessness evolved several times in the lineage leading to modern birds.

DePalma, Robert A, et al.
The first giant raptor (Theropoda: Dromaeosauridae) from the Hell Creek Formation
Paleontological Contributions Number 14 ISSN 1946-0279

Illustration: Emily Willouby