New species of dinosaur found in N China

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A team of paleontologists has found an intact and complete skeleton fossil of a previously undiscovered dinosaur species in north China, the team's leading scientist Xu Xing said Saturday.

Named Linheraptor exquisitus, the new species is the latest one found in the Dromaeosauridae family of the carnivorous theropod dinosaurs that lived about 80 million years ago during the Late Cretaceous period.

The fossil of the dinosaur was one of the world's most well-preserved specimen of small predator dinosaurs that lived during that period, said Xu, a research fellow with the Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology of the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

About 2.5 meters long and weighing 25 kg, the dinosaur would have been a fast and agile predator and, like other dromaeosaurids, possessed large "killing claws."

Xu said the new species documents a transitional stage in dromaeosaurid evolution from original ones with long and thin hindlimbs to developed ones that were comparatively stronger.

The new dinosaur was found in the rocks of the Wulansuhai Formation in the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region in the past two years by an international team, which was led by Xu Xing and Professor Tan Lin from a local paleoanthropology institute and consisted of members from China, the United States and Britain.

It represents the fifth dromaeosaurid dinosaur uncovered from the Formation, which is famous for its preservation of uncrushed, complete skeletons.

Different from other quarries in the country, dinosaur fossils there were mostly buried in aeolian rocks formed by sandstorm, which the paleontologist believe killed and buried the dinosaurs, resulting in comparatively intact preservation.

The paleontologists warned that if not collected in time, the large amount of fossils uncovered in the region every year might soon be damaged and disappear.

The findings were published in the peer-reviewed science journal Zootaxa Friday.

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