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Harpymimus akladnikovi See more dinosaur images.

Brian Franczak

HARPYMIMUS (HAR-pee-MIME-us)

Period: Late Cretaceous

Order, Suborder, Family: Saurischia, Theropoda, Ornithomimidae

Location: Asia (Mongolia)

Length: Estimated 3 1/2 feet (1 meter)

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Named after the flying mythical Greek creatures called Harpies that snatched victims with their hands, Harpymimus ("snatcher mimic") is the most primitive ornithomimid known. A single skeleton was found in southeastern Mongolia. The bones that were found include all of the neck, back, and pelvic vertebrae and parts of the arm, hand, foot, and lower jaw.

The lower jaw is important because, unlike other members of Ornithomimidae that had no teeth, Harpymimus had 10 to 11 very small teeth along each side of the front edge of the beak. The hand of Harpymimus is also important. The metacarpal bones of the hand (the long bones that form the palm) were different lengths; this feature is found in most theropods. The metacarpal bones of later Ornithomimids, however, were all the same length. Because of these differences, Harpymimus is sometimes put in its own family, Harpymimidae.

Harpymimus represents an advanced "missing-link" between theropods with teeth and grasping hands and the ornithomimids that had no teeth and stiff hands. These later ornithomimids probably used their hands to pull branches within reach of their bills rather than to grasp struggling prey.