Sunday, November 26, 2023

Venetoraptor: Beast of the Week

This week we'll be checking out a recently described creature that looks as natural in a space fantasy franchise as it does in the late Triassic.  Say hello to Venetoraptor gassenae!

Venetoraptor gassenae life reconstruction in watercolors by Christopher DiPiazza.

Venetoraptor was a small archosaur(reptile group that includes dinosaurs, pterosaurs, and crocodilians) that lived in what is now southern Brazil during the late Triassic period, between 237 and 227 million years ago.  From beak to tail, it measured a little over three feet (96cm) long.  It's genus name translates to "Vale Veneto Hunter/Thief" after the the area of Brazil near where its fossils were found, Vale Veneto.  

Venetoraptor was a member of the lagerpetid family of archosaurs.  Lagerpetids were generally small animals with proportionally long, slender limbs that exhibited fully erect posture, like dinosaurs and pterosaurs have.  Many were quadrupeds, but some, like Venetoraptor, were thought to walk on their hind limbs.  Lagerpetids are also interesting because they at one time were thought to be the group that gave rise to the first dinosaurs.  It is more recently thought, however, that lagerpetids were actually more closely related to pterosaurs.  It is plausible that lagerpetids, like Venetoraptor, were covered in feather-like structures in life, since both pterosaurs and some dinosaurs are also known to have had them.

3D printed Skeletal mount of Venetoraptor on display at the Bernardino Rivadavia Natural Sciences Museum in Buenos Aires.  photo credit: CONICET

Venetoraptor had a hooked beak, similar to modern birds of prey, on the tip of its mouth.  Unfortunately the rest of its jaws past the tips were never found so it is unclear if it had teeth or not.  It also would have had proportionally large eye sockets, suggesting it had sharp eyesight in life.  The hooked beak suggests Venetoraptor may have been a meat eater, hunting insects and other small animals, but at this point its exact diet is still mostly guesswork.  

Venetoraptor possessed long slender limbs, its legs were especially long, suggesting it was capable of bipedal locomotion in life.  It also had noticeably long, hooked claws, leading some think it may have been a good climber, possibly spending considerable time in, or even living in trees.  

I'm just going to come out and say it.  Venetoraptor looks like the Kowakian Monkey-lizards from Star Wars.

That is all for this week!  As always feel free to leave a comment below.


Kammerer, Christian F.; Nesbitt, Sterling J.; Flynn, John J.; Ranivoharimanana, Lovasoa; Wyss, André R. (2020-07-28). "A tiny ornithodiran archosaur from the Triassic of Madagascar and the role of miniaturization in dinosaur and pterosaur ancestry"Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences117 (30): 17932–17936.

Müller, R. T.; Ezcurra, M. D.; Garcia, M. S.; Agnolín, F. L.; Stocker, M. R.; Novas, F. E.; Soares, M. B.; Kellner, A. W. A.; Nesbitt, S. J. (2023). "New reptile shows dinosaurs and pterosaurs evolved among diverse precursors"Nature620 (7974): 589–594.

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