Name Meaning: Running Lizard
Geologic Era: Late Cretaceous
Location Discovered: Alberta, Canada
Size: About 2 meters long
Estimated Range: Canada and Northern United States
Extinction Date: 75 million years ago
Dromaeosaurus is represented in our museum by a replica of its kill claw. Most dromaeosaurs possessed a similar claw on their hind limbs, and most were lightly built, agile predators. Dromaeosaurus appears to have been more the exception than the rule for its family, showing several characteristics that set it apart from the other dromaeosaur dinosaurs.
Even though the group is named from Dromaeosaurus, it is rather poorly represented in the fossil record. The animal itself is known from only partial remains, and so reconstructions are partially based on known relatives. Dromaeosaurus had a relatively short, stocky skull compared to most other dromaeosaurs, and had larger, more robust, teeth. Its bite force is estimated to have been three times that of Velociraptor.
This, combined with the fact that the muscle that moved the kill claw was fairly weak, suggests that Dromaeosaurus relied more on its jaws than claw to kill prey. Dromaeosaurus teeth also show more than average wear compared to others of its family, suggesting that they were also using their teeth to crunch through bone more often than would be expected.
No complete skeleton of Dromaeosaurus has yet been recovered. This suggests that Dromaeosaurus was not a very common animal in its environment, or tended to die in places that did not favor preservation and fossilization. The Dinosaur Park Formation where Dromaeosaurus was originally found was once a coastal floodplain fed by rivers. Such areas do favor fossilization, in fact, the Dinosaur Park Formation frequently allows for the recovery of complete skeletons of other species. This could mean that Dromaeosaurus was indeed rare, or, that Dromaeosaurus tended die in areas that did not favor fossilization. If Dromaeosaurus did prefer a more upland habitat, this could explain the perceived rarity.
Skeleton: By Dger – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=18267009
Life Reconstruction: http://spinops.blogspot.com/2013/09/dromaeosaurus-albertensis.html