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Temporal range: Middle Jurassic – Late Cretaceous
Matthew & Brown, 1922
| †Dromaeosaurus albertensis|
Matthew & Brown, 1922
Dromaeosauridae (dro·mae·o·saur·i·dae/dro·mae·o·saur) pronounced DROH-mee-o-SOR-uh-day is a family of Deinonychosaurs, of the superfamily Maniraptora. Deinonychosaurs are distinguished by a sickle-shaped killing claw on the second toe of each foot. The size ranges from Utahraptor (8.6 ft tall, 26.7 ft long) to the smaller Velociraptor. (3 ft tall, 6 ft long).
The distinctive dromaeosaurid body plan helped to rekindle theories that at least some dinosaurs may have been active, fast, and closely related to birds. Robert Bakker's illustration for John Ostrom's 1969 monograph, showing the dromaeosaurid Deinonychus in a fast run, is among the most influential paleontological reconstructions in history. The dromaeosaurid body plan includes a relatively large skull, serrated teeth, narrow snout, and forward-facing eyes which indicate some degree of binocular vision. Dromaeosaurids, like most other theropods, had a moderately long S-curved neck, and their trunk was relatively short and deep. Like other maniraptorans, they had long arms that could be folded against the body in some species, and relatively large hands with three long fingers (the middle finger being the longest and the first finger being the shortest) ending in large claws. The dromaeosaurid hip structure featured a characteristically large pubic boot projecting beneath the base of the tail. Dromaeosaurid feet bore a large, recurved claw on the second toe. Their tails were slender, with long, low, vertebrae lacking transverse process and neural spines after the 14th caudal vertebra.
It is now known that at least some, and probably all, dromaeosaurids were covered in feathers, including large, vaned, wing and tail feathers. This development, first hypothesized in the mid-late 1980s and confirmed by fossil discoveries in 1999, represents a significant change in the way dromaeosaurids have historically been depicted in art and film.