Monday, 13 May 2013

Y is for Yulong

Last week was our last dinosaur that was actually from Alberta. Now our second last dinosaur of the dinosaurian alphabet is a newly described theropod from China: Yulong

Yulong was described at the beginning of this year by a group of Chinese palaeontologists as well as well-known Canadian palaeontologist Philip Currie from the University of Alberta [1]. It comes from the Luanchuan County of Henan Province. Unfortunately, the exact age of the the formation is unknown, but it is likely from the Late Cretaceous based on the other animals that are found in this formation. The name Yulong is derived from the Chinese "Yu", the abbreviated name for Henan Province, and "long" meaning dragon. Only one species of Yulong is currently known, Yulong mini in reference to the fact that the specimens are very small. 
Photograph of 3 Yulong mini skulls (a-c) in right lateral view and d in right lateral view (from Lu et al. [1]). Note the scale bar showing how small these skulls are! 
Yulong was an oviraptorid dinosaur of approximately chicken size. Most oviraptorids are larger, and can reach sizes up to 8 m in length. Although Yulong is described as being chicken sized, it was likely larger as the fossils that have been found are all juveniles. Several specimens are known, including well preserved skeletons, skulls, and even a well preserved embryo coming from a nest of 26 eggs. A thin section through a rib showed no growth lines, suggesting the animal was not yet a year old when it died. 

That's it for Yulong as it's a fairly newly described species. Tune in next week for our final dinosaur of the alphabet to learn about a neat theropod from Argentina!

1. Lu, J. et al. 2013. Chicken-sized oviraptorid dinosaurs from central China and their ontogenetic implications. Naturwissenschaften 100: 165-175.  

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