Yulong mini: An Interesting Discovery
Size: 0.8 to 1.6 feet (1/4 to ½ meters)
Time Period: Unknown, speculated to be the Later Late Cretaceous
Locale: The Quipa Formation of China.
Name: Yu (The one-character abbreviation of Henan Province, where it was found) dragon
This dinosaur genus is newly described. It’s also one of the few sources of information about it on the internet, or so I believe. Since we only know so much about these dinosaurs right now, this may need revision later on.
This is possibly the most major find of the year so far. The other recent dinosaur find I blogged about recently was Camarillasaurus, a phylogenetically significant ceratosaur. Yulong is a completely different animal, being an advanced coelurosaur. I haven’t blogged about these creatures at all yet. Woo. Anyway, Yulong is an impressive specimen because of the preservation of five juveniles and over twenty eggs, one of which contains a phenomenally preserved embryo.
These animals were described as “chicken-sized” by their describers, and are some of the smallest oviraptorosaurs ever discovered. Being juveniles, this isn’t very surprising. However, the discovery is important because it reveals a lot about oviraptorosaur growth and lifestyle. The describers of Yulong noted that the leg proportions of oviraptorosaurs don’t change as they get older. This indicates that Yulong led a sedentary lifestyle, even as an adult. Also, this may be evidence for a herbivorous lifestyle in creatures like Yulong. It seems likely that only some oviraptorosaurs were strict herbivores, while others were generalists in regards to feeding. There is certainly evidence that Oviraptor may have eaten small dinosaurs, as the bones of a troodont have been found in a nest attributed to that dinosaur.
The age of Yulong is currently uncertain, but the presence of derived dinosaur specimens like the dromaeosaurid Luanchuanraptor and the ornithomimid Quipalong suggests that the Quipa Formation is Late Cretaceous in age.
Phylogenetical analysis have shown that Yulong is more advanced than its huge relative Gigantoraptor, but less advanced than the group formed by Oviraptorinae and “Ingeniinae (In quotes because Ingenia is no longer a valid name).” However, the people who described the original specimens of Yulong noted that the phylogenetic position of this genus is highly uncertain, as the young of many animals tend to exhibit more basal traits than adults, and we have no adult specimens of Yulong.
So there you have it. Yulong is a cool dinosaur that reveals some cool things about oviraptorosaur lifestyles, but we don’t know it well enough to make any big assertions about its genetic position. As with all things paleontology, only time will reveal the mysteries of these awesome creatures. By any means, the animal is well-preserved, and constitutes the first phenomenal discovery of 2013.