Utah Yields Martharaptor Remains
Hayden-Corbett Quarry of Cedar Mountain formation, Utah, yields another preserved prehistoric dinosaur, Martharaptor.
A Utah researcher and volunteer who serves the Utah Friends of Paleontology and works for the Utah Geological Survey is the recent namesake of Martharaptor, one of Utah’s most recent prehistoric fossil finds. Evaluated by scientists from Fayetteville State University and Utah Geological Survey, Martharaptor has been designated a particular Theropod, and officially named Martharaptor greenriverensis.
Martharaptor Found in the Cedar Mountain Formation
Martharaptor is a new addition to the variety of dinosaur fossils preserved at their location about eight miles northwest of Greenville, Utah at the Yellow Cat Member of the Cedar Mountain Formation. This area is named for its area north of Arches national Park, near the Yellow Cat mining area. The sediment area is made of mudstone that was deposited onto flood plains during the Mid-Late Cretaceous Period, 98-127 million years ago. These sediments are non-marine sediments, consisting of river, lake and floodplain materials. Dinosaurs are found throughout the entire formation and are distinctively different (mostly determined by the found manual and pedal morphological studies) depending on whether found in the upper part or the lower part of the formation, showing evidence of the eventual replacement of European dinosaurs with Asian dinosaurs as continental drift occurred and the North American continental Plate drifted to the west.
Few Martharaptor Remains Have Been Recovered to Date
Recovery of Martharaptor is sparse, with only parts of the skeleton remaining. These include the forelimbs, hind limbs, parts of a hip, a scapula, vertebral fragments, several hand claws and other fragments. The particular sparseness of recovery for this type species so far means that no height or mass can correctly be attributed to it. So far, paleontological and other scientific analysis places M. greenriverensis within Therizinosauroidea as a sister taxon to Alxasaurus and Therisinosauridae. It is not impossible to presume that this classification could change, as more parts of Martharaptor are discovered and analyzed.
Therizinosauroidea are known for their long necks, wide torsos, and hind feet with four toes used in walking, which resembled prosauropod dinosaurs. Their enormous claws are a trademark characteristic, so much so to be of the most likely parts to withstand their place in the soil and preserve so well. Some Therizinosaur claws are known to have been three feet in length. Therizinosauroida were both omnivorous and herbivorous, evolved from a carnivorous ancestor. The hips of Therizinosauroidea are ornithischian (bird-like).
Martharaptor Was Likely a Coelurosaur
Scientists are fairly certain—at this point in discovery— to be sure that Martharaptor belonged to the Coelurosaur branch of the Theropod family. Coelurosia is the family clade containing all the theropods that are more closely related to birds than to carnosaurs (meat-eating lizards). Coelurosaur characteristics include elongated forelimbs and stoutly developed hinge type ankle joints. This characteristic indicated greater capability of speed due to reduced rotation in the ankle. It remains to be learned whether Martharaptor would have had this type of ankle or if this feature was lost or evolved over time. It is yet unknown whether Martharaptor possessed a skin similar to previous Therizinosauroidea, a coat of primitive down-like feathers. It could be that Martharaptor was similar in appearance and action to prehistoric ground sloths, being primarily herbivorous and using its long forelimbs and claws to pull and scrape long leafy branches.
Every year there are additional discoveries from Cedar Mountain Formation. The area is only recently beginning to be a hearty exposition and resource of information regarding Utah’s Early Cretaceous prehistoric dinosaurs. The entire state of Utah has been a rich source of information leading to greater understanding of not only prehistoric dinosaurs like Martharaptor, but also life for all animals during the prehistoric era of continental drift.