A new microraptorine specimen (Theropoda: Dromaeosauridae) with a brief comment on the evolution of compound bones in theropods
Xu et al
Microraptorinae is a recently discovered subgroup of dromaeosaurid theropods, mostly comprising species from the Lower Cretaceous Jehol Group of western Liaoning, China. Here we describe a new microraptorine specimen from the Jiufotang Formation (the upper section of the Jehol Group) of Dapingfang, Chaoyang, Liaoning, which displays interesting morphological features not previously documented within Microraptorinae. Noteworthy are several osteological features, including dental and ischial ones, which are transitional between the condition of Sinornithosaurus and that of Microraptor. These features highlight the existence of a spectrum of morphological variation between Sinornithosaurus, which is more like a typical dromaeosaurid, and Microraptor, which shares many characteristics with troodontids. However, the taxonomic significance of these variations has not to be fully assessed yet. A feature deserving special mention is the fusion of the pubes to the ilia in this specimen, which has implications for the evolution of compound bones in theropods+. Our preliminary analysis suggests that many compound bones in birds have been formed by sequential fusion of multiple elements in a peramorphic process.