July 3, 2012
Last week, paleontologists at the Argentine Museum of Natural Science in Buenos Aires literally unveiled a new dinosaur. Named Bicentenaria argentina to celebrate the museum’s 200th anniversary and just over two centuries of Argentine independence, the dinosaur was presented in a dramatic mount in which two of the predatory dinosaurs face off against each other.
As yet, there’s not very much to say about the dinosaur. The paper officially describing Bicentenaria has yet to be published. Based on various news reports, though, Bicentenaria appears to be a 90 million year old coelurosaur. This is the major group of theropod dinosaurs that contains tyrannosaurs, deinonychosaurs, therizinosaurs, and birds, among others, and Bicentenaria is reportedly an archaic member of this group that represents what the earliest coelurosaurs might have looked like. It wouldn’t be an ancestor of birds or other coelurosaur groups – by 90 million years ago, birds and other coelurosaurs had already been around for tens of millions of years – but Bicentenaria may have had a conservative body plan that preserved the form of the dinosaurs that set the stage for other coelurosaurs. For now, though, we’re left to admire the impressive skeletal mount until the paper comes out.