These 96-Million-Year-Old Dinosaur Tracks Uncovered In China Likely Belonged To History’s Largest Raptor

Published April 29, 2024

Measuring nearly 14 inches long, the footprints of Fujianipus yingliangi are the largest of their kind — and likely belonged to one of the biggest raptors to ever walk the Earth.

Fujianipus Yingliangi

Lida Xing et al.An artist’s depiction of Fujianipus yingliangi, likely one of the largest raptors to ever live.

Velociraptors rank among the most recognizable of all dinosaurs, and the most feared. Most of them, however, only grew to roughly the size of a turkey or a medium-sized dog. But a team of paleontologists recently identified a potential new megaraptor species based on fossilized footprints found in China.

Their findings, published in the journal iScience, examine the largest raptor tracks ever found — that may have belonged to the biggest predator of their kind to ever live.

The Discovery Of The Largest Fossilized Raptor Footprints Ever Found

The footprints were found at the Longxiang track site, a large area covered in more than 240 dinosaur footprints. More than 96 million years ago, the site was a muddy riverbank where a wide range of dinosaurs tromped, leaving behind deep imprints that eventually fossilized.

Researchers were studying the area in 2020 when they came across five two-toed footprints.

“You know a raptor track when you see it,” said Chinese paleontologist Lida Xing in a press statement, according to LiveNOW from FOX. “But these tracks are different from any that have ever been found.”

Notably, these raptor tracks are significantly larger than other raptor footprints, measuring around 14 inches long. The study’s authors wrote that these are the “largest raptor footprints ever found.”

Large Raptor Tracks

Lida Xing et al.The largest raptor tracks ever discovered.

Based on the size of the tracks, scientists estimated that the raptors likely measured around 16 feet in length, with a hip height of six feet. Researchers dubbed this newly discovered creature Fujianipus yingliangi.

“I was flabbergasted by the size of the prints,” College of Charleston professor of paleontology Scott Persons told LiveNOW. “I’ve seen raptor tracks before, but they’ve all belonged to turkey-sized animals. The details on many of the prints are also strikingly good. You can see the shape of individual fleshy pads on each toe.”

A Fearsome Prehistoric Beast That’s Relative Of Modern Birds

The toe proportions also led researchers to conclude that the newly discovered raptor may have been a troodontid — a close relative of modern birds.

Saurornithoides Mongoliensis

Wikimedia CommonsA skull belonging to fellow troodontid Saurornithoides mongoliensis.

Troodontids were small and intelligent creatures that lived in Asia and North America during the Late Cretaceous period. However, large troodontids were rare.

Fujianipus yingliangi, then, is unique for a multitude of reasons.

“The typical carnivorous dinosaur track has three forward-pointing toes,” Persons told local South Carolina news channel WYFF. “Their tracks look like they could have been made by a giant turkey, emu or other ground bird. Two-toed tracks are the mark of deinonychosaurs, better known as raptors.”

It’s not that raptors didn’t have three toes. Rather, they had a middle toe with a large claw that they held up so that it would not scrape on the ground, keeping it “lethally sharp,” Persons explained.

At its size, Fujianipus would likely have had an “increased predatory ability and a shift toward larger prey,” the study’s authors wrote.

“Raptors were good at being small,” said Persons. “When it comes to house cat- and coyote-sized predators, raptors were widespread and globally successful for tens of millions of years. But we find that, in multiple environments and at multiple times, different raptor lineages did evolve large sizes. There are many advantages to getting bigger. Still, for Fujianipus, the timing is interesting.”

Researchers also noted in the study that the raptor tracks came from a period of time in which dinosaurs were evolving into larger sizes — leading the way to one of history’s greatest predators: the Tyrannosaurus rex.


After reading about these large fossilized raptor footprints, look through this gallery of 31 fascinating dinosaur facts. Then, learn about Quetzalcoatlus, the largest flying dinosaur to ever live, or the prehistoric predators known as terror birds.

author
Austin Harvey
author
A staff writer for All That's Interesting, Austin Harvey has also had work published with Discover Magazine, Giddy, and Lucid covering topics on mental health, sexual health, history, and sociology. He holds a Bachelor's degree from Point Park University.
editor
John Kuroski
editor
John Kuroski is the editorial director of All That's Interesting. He graduated from New York University with a degree in history, earning a place in the Phi Alpha Theta honor society for history students. An editor at All That's Interesting since 2015, his areas of interest include modern history and true crime.
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Harvey, Austin. "These 96-Million-Year-Old Dinosaur Tracks Uncovered In China Likely Belonged To History’s Largest Raptor." AllThatsInteresting.com, April 29, 2024, https://allthatsinteresting.com/fujianipus-yingliangi. Accessed May 23, 2024.