During the Late Cretaceous, what is now the continent of Europe was split into a multitude of islands, where both flora and fauna evolved into weird and wonderful forms. Unlike anywhere else in the northern hemisphere during the Late Cretaceous, these islands were home to abelisaurids, like the french form Arcovenator, which most likely took up the niche of top predators in their ecosystems (that is, if they weren’t in competition with island-hopping azhdarchids).

The skull of Majungasaurus crenatissimus, an abelisaurid. Photo by the author, 2015.
The skull of Majungasaurus crenatissimus, an abelisaurid. Relatives of M. crenatissimus existed where France is now during the Late Cretaceous. Photo by the author, 2015.

Dromaeosaurids are also present on these islands. Among their ranks is the obscure dinosaur Pyroraptor olympius, a Maastrichtian form native to where France is today. 

Giant Azdarchids, similar in size to the North American Quetzalcoatlus, also called Late Cretaceous Europe home. Quetzalcoatlus humerus replica at the AMNH. Photo by the author, 2014.
Giant Azdarchids, similar in size to the North American Quetzalcoatlus, also called Late Cretaceous Europe home. Quetzalcoatlus humerus replica at the AMNH. Photo by the author, 2014.

Pyroraptor is known from fragmentary remains which were described by Allain and Taquet in 2000. Because of the fragmentary nature of the specimen, it is hard to estimate the size of this animal, but the bones indicate an animal of around 1.5 meters in length. Since the awesomebro dromaeosaurid stocky dragon has been recently reclassified as a basal avalian (Cau, Brougham, & Naish, 2015), Pyroraptor once again is one of only two known dromaeosaurids from the Late Cretaceous of Europe. The other dromaeosaurid is Variraptor, dromeosaurid which varies in its validity. Some have suggested that Variraptor and Pyroraptor represent the same animal, which would mean, by the laws of nomenclature, that Variraptor, the older of the two scientific names, would take priority. However, Chanthasit & Buffetaut (2009) argued that Variraptor indeed is a distinct taxon, and that the presence of two morphologically different types of ulna would assure that both of these dromeosaurid taxa are valid.

P. olympius would have probably coexisted with rhabodont and titanosauriform genera, both of which were present in Europe during the Late Cretaceous. The small size of Pyroraptor suggests that it would not have gone after full grown individuals of either group. Rather, it would stick to smaller prey, such as fish, small squamates and amphibians, eggs, and possibly infant dinosaurs.

Dinosaur eggs, a favorite snake of Pyroraptor's. Unfortunately, the eggs pictured come from Mongolia, and so Pyroraptor would never get a chance to eat them.
Dinosaur eggs, a favorite snake of Pyroraptor’s. Unfortunately, the eggs pictured come from Mongolia, and so Pyroraptor would never get a chance to eat them.

While abelisaurids and azhdarchids ruled the roost as top predators, Pyroraptor would be much more at home scurrying across the forest floor, perusing the leaf litter for its next potential meal.

Pyroraptor with prey by the author. Pencils on paper, 2015.
Pyroraptor with prey by the author. Pencils on paper, 2015.

References 

1. Allain, R.; Taquet, P. .2000. “A new genus of Dromaeosauridae (Dinosauria, Theropoda) from the Upper Cretaceous of France.” Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology 20: 404-407.

2. Cau, A; Brougham, T; Naish, D. .2015. “The phylogenetic affinities of the bizarre Late Cretaceous Romanian theropod Balaur bondoc (Dinosauria, Maniraptora): dromaeosaurid or flightless bird?” PeerJ 3: e1032. 

3. Chanthasit, P.; Buffetaut, E.  .2009. “New data on the Dromaeosauridae (Dinosauria: Theropoda) from the Late Cretaceous of southern France.” Bulletin de la Société Géologique de France 180(2):145-154

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