During the Late Cretaceous, what is now the continent of Europe was split into a multitude of islands where both plants and animals 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 predator in its ecosystem.
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.
Pyroraptor is known from fragmentary remains 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 a length of around 1.5 meters. Since the 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, which some consider invalid. Several researchers 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 genus names, would take priority. However, Chanthasit & Buffetaut (2009) argued that Variraptor is a distinct taxon, the presence of two morphologically different types of ulna indicating that both of these dromeosaurid taxa are valid.
P. olympius would have 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.
While abelisaurids and azhdarchids ruled the roost as top predators, Pyroraptor scurried across the forest floor, perusing the leaf litter for its next potential meal.
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