South Dakota was once home to giant raptors

The fossilized remains of one of the largest raptors ever have been discovered in South Dakota. The discovery was made by Palm Beach Museum curator of vertebrate paleontology Robert DePalma and a team in Harding County at Hell Creek Formation. The fossils are of a partial skeleton belonging to the giant raptor dubbed "Dakotaraptor steini", a member of the dromaeosauridae family.

This particular raptor would have been very large, measuring in at about 16 or so feet in length — much larger than many raptors, but of course much smaller than most predators roaming the earth at that time. The Dakotaraptor was second in size only to the Utahraptor, which could reach lengths up to 22ft with the scales tipping at about 1100lbs.

As shown in the image above, this particular raptor had what is called a sickle claw, which measured in at more than 9-inches long and was used to slay opponents. Researchers aren't clear on whether the claw was used to clamp onto prey, or to simply slice them open — not that it would have mattered much to the creature.

There are other mysteries surrounding this new raptor, such as whether they were lone beasts or prone to wandering in packs. There is some evidence of related species hunting in packs, but nothing concrete enough to say whether the Dakotaraptor did the same. The remains indicate the raptor also featured feathers on parts of its body, though due to its large size, it wasn't able to fly.

SOURCE: Discover Magazine