Jurassic Morrison Raptor Tooth
Raptor aff. Coelurus
Morrison Formation
Upper Jurassic
Moffat County, Colorado

Here is a rare example of one of the little-known raptors of the Morrison Formation. It may be related to the poorly defined Coelurus tribe of raptors. The tooth is 1.5 cm tall and about 1 cm across the base. The serrations are beautifully preserved. It is prepared in its original matrix which measures 5 x 3.5 cm. There is no repair or restoration.

Coelurus is genus of coelurosaurian dinosaur from the Late Jurassic period (mid-late Kimmeridgian faunal stage, 155–152 million years ago). The name means "hollow tail", referring to its hollow tail vertebrae. Although its name is linked to one of the main divisions of theropods (Coelurosauria), it has historically been poorly understood, and sometimes confused with its better-known contemporary Ornitholestes. Like many dinosaurs studied in the early years of paleontology, it has had a confusing taxonomic history, with several species being named and later transferred to other genera or abandoned. Only one species is currently recognized as valid: the type species, C. fragilis, described by Othniel Charles Marsh in 1879. It is known from one partial skeleton found in the Morrison Formation of Wyoming, United States. It was a small bipedal carnivore with elongate legs.

The skull is unknown except for possibly a portion of lower jaw found at the same site as the rest of the known Coelurus material. Although it has the same preservation and coloring as the fossils known to belong to the Coelurus skeleton, it is very slender, which may mean it does not belong to the skeleton; this bone is 7.9 centimeters long (3.1 in) but only 1.1 centimeters tall (0.43 in). In general, its vertebrae were long and low, with low neural spines and thin walls to the bodies of the vertebrae. Its neck vertebrae were very pneumatic, with numerous hollow spaces on their surfaces (pleurocoels); these hollows were not evenly distributed among the vertebrae and varied in size. The neck vertebrae were very elongate, with bodies four times longer than wide, and they articulated with concave faces on both ends (amphicoely). The back vertebrae were not as elongate, lacked surface hollows, and had less developed concave faces and bodies that were hourglass-shaped. The tail vertebrae also lacked surface hollows.

The three best-known small theropods of the Morrison Formation — Coelurus, Ornitholestes, and Tanycolagreus — were generalized coelurosaurs, and they have been mistaken for each other at various times. Now that Coelurus and Ornitholestes have been more fully described, it is possible to distinguish them by various characteristics of their anatomy. For example, they had visibly different proportions: Coelurus had a longer back and neck than Ornitholestes, and longer, more slender legs and feet. Coelurus and Tanycolagreus are more similar, but differ in a variety of details. Such details include the shape of the upper arm, forearm, and thigh bones; the location of muscle attachments on the thigh bone, proportionally longer back vertebrae; and, again, the very long metatarsus of Coelurus.