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Martharaptor

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martharaptor

Falcarius, which Martharaptor closely resembled (Utah Museum of Natural History)

Name:

Martharaptor (after paleontologist Martha Hayden); pronounced MAR-tha-rap-tore

Habitat:

Woodlands of North America

Historical Period:

Early Cretaceous (120 million years ago)

Size and Weight:

About 10 to 13 feet long and 500 to 1,000 pounds

Diet:

Unknown; possibly herbivorous

Distinguishing Characteristics:

Long neck; narrow head

About Martharaptor:

Only the third dinosaur in history ever to incorporate a female first name--the first was Leaellynasaura, named after the daughter of paleontologists Patricia Vickers-Rich, and the second was Sarahsaurus, named after philanthropist Sarah Butler--Martharaptor is also the most mysterious. All we know for sure about this dinosaur, named after the Utah Geological Survey's Martha Hayden, is that it was a theropod; the scattered fossils are too incomplete to allow a more conclusive identification.

However, there are some tantalizing clues. Some of the preserved bones of Martharaptor bear a marked resemblance to another theropod of early Cretaceous Utah, Falcarius. This dinosaur has been conclusively identified as a therizinosaur--a weird offshoot of the theropod family featuring long front claws, shaggy feathers, and a prominent pot belly. Most strikingly, there's some evidence that Falcarius pursued an exclusively herbivorous diet, which would make it the first identified theropod not to be a dedicated carnivore (or at least an omnivore). If Marthraptor's kinship to Falcarius goes more than feather-deep, paleontologists may just have discovered the world's second plant-eating theropod!

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