|Name Meaning||“Fire thief”||Height||1.5-2.07 meters (4.9-6.7 feet) long|
|Pronunciation||Pai-roe-rap-tore||Length||0.5 meters (1.6 feet) tall at the hips|
|Era||Mesozoic – Late Cretaceous||Weight||181.4 kilograms (400 lbs)|
|Classification||Dinosauria, Saurischia & Theropoda||Location||Provence, France, Europe|
Pyroraptor is a genus in the Theropoda clade. The genus consists of only one species, Pyroraptor olympius.
The generic name comes from the Greek word for fire and the Latin word for thief, referring to the species’ discovery after a forest fire.
The first fossils belonging to Pyroraptor were discovered in 1992 in what is now known as Provence.
After studying the remains, paleontologists concluded that this theropod lived during the Late Cretaceous.
More specifically, it roamed the Earth between the late Campanian and the early Maastrichtian stages, roughly 70.6 million years ago.
Unlike other dinosaurs, the Pyroraptor doesn’t surprise us with its size, not even reaching the height of an average human.
However, its uniqueness can be proven by other aspects, such as predatory instincts, a feathered body, and enlarged curved claws.
Before discussing this species in detail, it’s of essence to mention that paleontologists know very little about the Pyroraptor, and much of its description is derived from dromaeosaurid traits.
The Pyroraptor is a small theropod.
While the exact height or length of the species is unknown, we can estimate its size based on other species in the Dromaeosauridae family, which the Pyroraptor is part of.
Dinosaurs in this family are typically small, with most species not exceeding lengths of 2.07 meters (6.7 feet) and heights of 1.8 meters (5.9 feet).
However, some species can reach extraordinary lengths within the Dromaeosauridae family, although they are still small compared to other theropods.
The Utahraptor, for example, can reach a length of 6 meters (20 feet), but its height at the hips is around 1.2-1.5 meters (3.9-4.9 feet).
The Achillobator is slightly smaller than the Utahraptor, measuring 3.9-5 meters (12.7-16.4 feet) long and 1.25 meters (4.1 feet) tall at the hips.
A dromaeosaurid genus closely related to the Pyroraptor is Velociraptor.
It typically doesn’t exceed 1.5-2.07 meters (4.9-6.7 feet) in length and 0.5 meters (1.6 feet) in height at the hips.
Based on estimations, the Pyroraptor measures approximately the same size or even slightly smaller.
However, it is definitely not the smallest in the family!
The Pamparaptor is even tinier, measuring 0.5-0.7 meters (1.6-2.3 feet) in length!
Regarding other characteristics of this Fire Thief, very little is known.
However, it certainly had a bird-like appearance with a feather-covered body. It was likely a bipedal theropod featuring enlarged curved claws.
These claws, located on the second toe of each foot, were probably used for predation or protection.
Some scientists believe they may have also been used for climbing.
The Pyroraptor had a relatively large skull with a likely narrow snout and forward-facing eyes.
The body was probably shorter than the tail, and the neck was relatively long and formed an S-shape.
The forelimbs were well-developed and featured curved claws.
Habitat and Distribution
The Pyroraptor was discovered in what is now known as Provence in southeastern France.
More precisely, the fossils were found at the region’s La Boucharde locality of the Arc Basin within the Argiles et Grès à Reptiles Formation.
The discovery of tooth fossils in Spain, similar to Pyroraptor teeth, suggests that the species might have also lived in Spain.
However, this has yet to be fully confirmed.
The Argiles et Grès à Reptiles Formation existed during the Campanian to early Maastrichtian stages and was part of the Ibero-Armorican island landmass.
The region’s environment is believed to have been fluvial, characterized by clay soil material, shale, and sandstone sedimentary rocks.
However, very little is known about the ecology and climate of the habitat inhabited by the Pyroraptor.
Behavior and Diet
Studies based on certain dromaeosaurid species indicate that they may have been nocturnal or cathemeral, meaning they were active both during the day and at irregular intervals during the night.
However, since the research focused on Microraptor, Velociraptor, and Sinornithosaurus, it’s unknown whether the Pyroraptor was nocturnal as well, although we can assume so since they shared similarities from other perspectives as well.
It is also assumed that dromaeosaurids were social creatures and preferred hunting in packs, although some specialists disagreed.
Another interesting dromaeosaurid characteristic is that at least a few species are believed to have possessed flying abilities.
Whether this applies to Pyroraptor is yet to be discovered!
Furthermore, all dromaeosaurids are considered to have had an excellent sense of smell, so they primarily relied on it while hunting.
The two claws on the foot toes represented another possible significant aid in looking for and catching prey.
Some specialists are certain they were used as blade-like weapons, while others argue they served as hooks and helped subdue large prey.
Other studies using X-rays to help understand the function of Velociraptor claws showed that they were similar to the claws of an eagle owl and were excellent for climbing since the claw tip was an ideal puncturing and gripping tool.
This might also be applicable to Pyroraptor.
All dromaeosaurids, including the Pyroraptor, were carnivorous dinosaurs.
Research shows they relied on a “puncture and pull” technique while feeding and likely preferred larger prey.
Some specialists believe dromaeosaurids were excellent at handling struggling prey due to their relatively stronger jaws.
On the other hand, other studies suggest that small dromaeosaurids might’ve been partial insectivores, as they could use their feet to dig and their second toe to destroy tough insect nests.
Still, this theory does not exclude other hypotheses regarding the use of the claw or the dinosaurs’ diets.
As you may have already noticed, much of what is known or assumed about the Pyroraptor is derived from discoveries about other dromaeosaurid theropods or dinosaurs in general.
This also applies to the life cycle of the “fire thief.”
First, it is known that all dinosaurs reproduce by laying eggs, which is also applicable to this dinosaur species.
However, the topic became of much interest to specialists once they discovered the first egg belonging to a dromaeosaurid.
The eggs are similar to oviraptorid eggs and are thought to have represented the origin of the color pattern diversity observed in modern bird eggs.
Although it belonged to Deinonychus, we cannot exclude the possibility that its characteristics can also be applied to the eggs of the Pyroraptor.
Theropods are known to have internal testes, a retractable penis (males), and paired ovaries and oviducts (females).
Therefore, we can attribute these characteristics to the Pyroraptor as well.
Furthermore, the eggs were laid in pairs, and it is unknown whether the baby dinosaurs were precocial.
However, we cannot rule out this possibility, as many baby dinosaurs are born either precocial or superprecocial.
Evolution and History
The Pyroraptor belongs to the Dromaeosauridae subgroup, which, in turn, is part of the Eumaniraptora or Paraves clade, where extant birds are classified.
Paravians were thought to have separated from other maniraptorans way before Pyroraptor appeared around 165 million years ago.
The dromaeosaurids and troodontids (Troodontidae, another subgroup in the clade) were often associated with each other and even classified into a single group, although this theory was later disapproved of.
As such, we can conclude that the Pyroraptor is in a clade containing all dinosaurs closely related to birds.
The subgroup that hosts the Pyroraptor has characteristics similar to those of early birds, confirming the assumption that dromaeosaurids were closely related to birds.
This shouldn’t come as a surprise, as their size and appearance are definitely an indicator of this – at least for the untrained, enthusiastic eye!
The first fossils belonging to a Pyroraptor were discovered in 1992, after a forest fire, which is why the dinosaur is nicknamed fire thief.
However, the dinosaur wasn’t described until 2000, when Philippe Taquet and Ronan Allain named the genus and the species.
The holotype specimen, which served as the basis for the species description, consists of only a toe claw.
Other fossils discovered include a metatarsal, an ulna, two teeth, and two other toe claws.
It shouldn’t be surprising that many specialists argue that the description provided by Allain and Taquet isn’t enough to name a species, and that most of the characteristics are derived from general dromaeosaurid features.
Some researchers even suggest that the Pyroraptor and the Variraptor are synonymous, but since this cannot be proven either, the Pyroraptor remains a separate genus.
Other discoveries even showed similarities between the Pyroraptor and unenlagiines (Unenlagiidae, another family in the Eumaniraptora clade, equal to the Dromaeosauridae family).
It has been suggested that the “fire thief” may have originated from the unenlagiines of Gondwana.
However, since the teeth of unenlagiines lack the typical serration noticed in Pyroraptor teeth, some specialists ruled out this possibility.
Interactions with Other Species
The Argiles et Grès à Reptiles Formation is known to have hosted various dinosaurs and prehistoric creatures, including:
- Ornithopods like Rhabdodon priscus and Rhabdodon septimanicus
- Sauropods like Amelosaurus and Atsinganosaurus
- Theropods like Arcovenator and Tarascosaurus
- Nodosaurids like Struthiosaurus
- Ankylosaurs like Struthiosaurus
- Other dromaeosaurids like Variraptor
- Primitive birds like Gargantuavis and Martinavis
- Pterosaurs like Azhdarcho
- Turtles like Dortoka and Solemydid
- Crocodilomorphs like Massaliasuchus and Allodaposuchus
- Mammals like Zhelestid
- Extinct frogs like Palaeobatrachidae
- Prehistoric salamanders like Batrachosauroididae
Since the Pyroraptor was likely a carnivore, it may have preyed upon young Rhabdodon, which were ornithopod dinosaurs.
However, this hypothesis requires further confirmation. It is unknown whether the Pyroraptor had any predators.
However, considering its size and the fact that it shared its habitat with carnivorous dinosaurs like the Arcovenator, an abelisaurid theropod, we cannot rule out the possibility that the latter preyed upon the former.
Since the Pyroraptor is among the few prehistoric creatures closely related to birds, the discovery of the fossils belonging to the genus represents a major step forward in completing the whole picture of the world’s evolutionary history.
Due to the limited knowledge about the genus and its status as a fully confirmed separate genus being debated, further studies on the “fire thief” dinosaur are undoubtedly required.
Hopefully, new fossils containing crucial information about this dinosaur will be discovered in the near future!
Apart from its significance in paleontology, the Pyroraptor is a unique appearance in the universe of entertainment.
It appears in a Dinosaur Planet episode and is featured in Jurassic World: The Game, Jurassic World: Alive, and Jurassic World: Dominion.
Having lived in what is now France approximately 70.6 million years ago, the Pyroraptor is now considered a dromaeosaurid dinosaur closely related to modern birds.
Although only a limited number of fossils have been discovered, paleontologists have been able to approximate the appearance, behavior, and diet of Pyroraptor olympius based on well-known traits of dromaeosaurids.
More precisely, the Pyroraptor was likely a small, bipedal dinosaur with a carnivorous diet.
It possessed specialized curved claws that served as climbing aids and aided in hunting and capturing prey.
Did Pyroraptor live in snow?
It is currently unknown whether the Pyroraptor lived in snowy environments. The only known information about its habitat is that it existed in a fluvial environment.
Although it is known that it did snow during the Late Cretaceous, the precise climate of the Argiles et Grès à Reptiles Formation remains a mystery.
How fast was Pyroraptor?
Some dromaeosaurid studies suggest that these dinosaurs were capable of both slow movements and fast running when necessary.
Unfortunately, there is currently no scientific confirmation regarding the precise speed of the Pyroraptor.
Atrociraptor vs. Pyroraptor: Who would win?
If an Atrociraptor and a Pyroraptor were to confront each other, both would be equally capable of winning, given their similar size and body plan.