Bambiraptor

bambiraptor
Bambiraptor (Oxford Museum of Natural History).

Name:

Bambiraptor (Greek for "Bambi thief," after the Disney cartoon character); pronounced BAM-bee-rap-tore

Habitat:

Plains of western North America

Historical Period:

Late Cretaceous (75 million years ago)

Size and Weight:

About four feet long and 10 pounds

Diet:

Meat

Distinguishing Characteristics:

Small size; bipedal posture; feathers; relatively large brain; single, curved claws on hind feet

 

About Bambiraptor

Seasoned paleontologists spend their entire careers trying to discover the fossils of new dinosaurs--so they must have been envious when a 14-year-old boy stumbled upon the near-complete skeleton of Bambiraptor in 1995, in Montana's Glacier National Park.

Named after the famous Disney cartoon character, this tiny, bipedal, birdlike raptor may have been covered with feathers, and its brain was almost as big as that of modern birds (which may not seem like much of a compliment, but still made it smarter than most other dinosaurs of the late Cretaceous period).

Unlike the cinematic Bambi, the gentle, sloe-eyed friend of Thumper and Flower, Bambiraptor was a vicious carnivore, which may well have hunted in packs to bring down bigger prey and was equipped with single, slashing, curved claws on each of its hind feet. Which isn't to say that Bambiraptor was at the top of its late Cretaceous food chain; measuring only four feet from head to tail and weighing in the vicinity of five pounds, this dinosaur would have made a quick meal for any hungry tyrannosaurs (or larger raptors) in its immediate vicinity, a scenario that you're unlikely to see in any forthcoming Bambi sequels.

The most important thing about Bambiraptor, though, is how complete its skeleton is--it has been called the "Rosetta Stone" of raptors by paleontologists, who have studied it intently over the last two decaes in an attempt to puzzle out the evolutionary relationship of ancient dinosaurs and modern birds.

No less an authority than John Ostrom--the paleontologist who, inspired by Deinonychus, first proposed that birds evolved from dinosaurs--raved about Bambiraptor shortly after its discovery, calling it a "jewel" that would confirm his once-controversial theory.