New theropod in the lagoon by Thomas Hammann
by Thomas Hammann
Hobby-paleontologists have discovered a so far unknown dinosaur in the famous Archaeopteryx lagoon. In Summer 1998 two brothers found the plate which has hidden the small two-legged theropod since over 151 million years.
\"The fossil was embedded in a Jurassic layer which is millions of years older than the layers at the sites of any known Archaeopteryx skeleton\", declares Günter Viohl, director of the Jura Museum in Eichstätt (Bavaria), where the fossil is in preparation. So far there is the 8 cm long skull and parts of the neck to see.
Viohl becomes enthusiastic: \"The teeth are quite impressive.\" They are very long, curved, serrated on the edge of one side, \"and made for effective killing of much arger prey.\"
Viohl doesn\'t know at all of which animals this dinosaur, which must have lived on an island, could possibly could have fed on. Beside one Leptosaurus and some turtles are only corals, brachiopods, squids, crabs, ammonites, fishes (especially bony fishes) and other mostly very small marine organisms known from the Schamhaupten location. The discovered theropod was a juvenile, not fully grown up, as the scientists can see on the bone-structure. \"Maybe the adults grew up to two meter or even more\", says Viohl.
Of course all scientists think that it is much too early to say something definitely about the classification of that dinosaur. But Peter Wellnhofer, German specialist on pterosaurs and Compsognathus, has already compared the teeth with them of Compsognathus longipes, which is only known from a single specimen found nearby. He sees similarities: \"The teeth look a bit like Compsognathus-teeth.\" Viohl agrees with that: \"Nevertheless Wellnhofer and me are sure that it is something completely new to science. \" So the theropod could possibly have been for example the ancestor or an other relative of Compsognathus.
Wellnhofer is careful and speaks of \"a kind\" of Compsognathus.It is for sure that the specimen is millions of years older than Compsognathus or Archaeopteryx - the earliest bird lived on earth. \"Of course we hope to find even feathers on the fossil within the next steps of preparation\", says Viohl, hoping to find important pieces for solving the puzzle of bird-evolution. He is confident that the whole individual is preserved in the plate. But the preparation will last at least one year, because the museum staff is also working on a big planned pterosaur-exhibition starting next year. Viohl asks for patience: \"What is one year compared to all the millions of years the dinosaur laid in this stone?\"
Gunther Viohl . 1999. Fund eines neuen kleinen Theropoden. Archaeopteryx 17: 15-19. According to this paper the fossil is older than the beds that yield Compsognathus and Viohl suggests that this might be a compsognathid ancestor of C. longipes. Comparisons of the teeth of the two taxa show that the new taxon corresponds to the compsognathid tooth type. The teeth are proportionally huge and with strongly recurved tips. Viohl suggests the specimen is a juvenile.