Ask a question about 'Aerosteon'
Start a new discussion about 'Aerosteon'
Answer questions from other users
Full Discussion Forum
Aerosteon is a genus
In biology, a genus is a low-level taxonomic rank used in the biological classification of living and fossil organisms, which is an example of definition by genus and differentia...

 of allosauroid theropod dinosaur
Dinosaurs are a diverse group of animals of the clade and superorder Dinosauria. They were the dominant terrestrial vertebrates for over 160 million years, from the late Triassic period until the end of the Cretaceous , when the Cretaceous–Paleogene extinction event led to the extinction of...

 from the Late Cretaceous
Late Cretaceous
The Late Cretaceous is the younger of two epochs into which the Cretaceous period is divided in the geologic timescale. Rock strata from this epoch form the Upper Cretaceous series...

 period of Argentina
Argentina , officially the Argentine Republic , is the second largest country in South America by land area, after Brazil. It is constituted as a federation of 23 provinces and an autonomous city, Buenos Aires...

. Its remains were discovered in 1996 in the Anacleto Formation
Anacleto Formation
The Anacleto Formation is a geologic formation with outcroppings in the Argentine Patagonian provinces of Mendoza, Río Negro, and Neuquén. It is the youngest formation within the Neuquén Group and belongs to the Río Colorado Subgroup...

, dating to the Santonian
The Santonian is an age in the geologic timescale or a chronostratigraphic stage. It is a subdivision of the Late Cretaceous epoch or Upper Cretaceous series. It spans the time between 85.8 ± 0.7 mya and 83.5 ± 0.7 mya...

 stage (about 84 million years ago). The type
Type species
In biological nomenclature, a type species is both a concept and a practical system which is used in the classification and nomenclature of animals and plants. The value of a "type species" lies in the fact that it makes clear what is meant by a particular genus name. A type species is the species...

 and only known species is A. riocoloradensis. Its specific name
In biology, a species is one of the basic units of biological classification and a taxonomic rank. A species is often defined as a group of organisms capable of interbreeding and producing fertile offspring. While in many cases this definition is adequate, more precise or differing measures are...

 indicates that its remains were found 1 km north of the Río Colorado, in the province of Mendoza
Mendoza Province
The Province of Mendoza is a province of Argentina, located in the western central part of the country in the Cuyo region. It borders to the north with San Juan, the south with La Pampa and Neuquén, the east with San Luis, and to the west with the republic of Chile; the international limit is...

. They show evidence of a bird-like respiratory system
Respiratory system
The respiratory system is the anatomical system of an organism that introduces respiratory gases to the interior and performs gas exchange. In humans and other mammals, the anatomical features of the respiratory system include airways, lungs, and the respiratory muscles...

. Aerosteons name can be translated as air bone and derives from Greek
Ancient Greek
Ancient Greek is the stage of the Greek language in the periods spanning the times c. 9th–6th centuries BC, , c. 5th–4th centuries BC , and the c. 3rd century BC – 6th century AD of ancient Greece and the ancient world; being predated in the 2nd millennium BC by Mycenaean Greek...

 ἀήρ (aer, "air") and οστέον (osteon, "bone").


Aerosteon was a 9 metre (30 ft) long bipedal carnivorous dinosaur that lived approximately 83 million years ago during the Santonian
The Santonian is an age in the geologic timescale or a chronostratigraphic stage. It is a subdivision of the Late Cretaceous epoch or Upper Cretaceous series. It spans the time between 85.8 ± 0.7 mya and 83.5 ± 0.7 mya...

Faunal stage
In chronostratigraphy, a stage is a succession of rock strata laid down in a single age on the geologic timescale, which usually represents millions of years of deposition. A given stage of rock and the corresponding age of time will by convention have the same name, and the same boundaries.Rock...


The remains discovered include a single tooth, some cranial bones, a number of partial or complete vertebrae from the neck, back, and sacrum
In vertebrate anatomy the sacrum is a large, triangular bone at the base of the spine and at the upper and back part of the pelvic cavity, where it is inserted like a wedge between the two hip bones. Its upper part connects with the last lumbar vertebra, and bottom part with the coccyx...

, several cervical
Cervical rib
A cervical rib is a supernumerary rib which arises from the seventh cervical vertebra. It is a congenital abnormality located above the normal first rib. A cervical rib is present in only about 1 in 500 of people; in even rarer cases, an individual may have two cervical ribs...

 and dorsal
Dorsum (biology)
In anatomy, the dorsum is the upper side of animals that typically run, fly, or swim in a horizontal position, and the back side of animals that walk upright. In vertebrates the dorsum contains the backbone. The term dorsal refers to anatomical structures that are either situated toward or grow...

 ribs, gastralia, furcula
The ' is a forked bone found in birds, formed by the fusion of the two clavicles. In birds, its function is the strengthening of the thoracic skeleton to withstand the rigors of flight....

 (wishbone), left scapulocoracoid
The Scapulocoracoid is the unit of the pectoral girdle that contains the coracoid and scapula.The coracoid itself is a beak-shaped bone that is commonly found in most vertebrates with a few exceptions.The scapula is commonly known as the shoulder blade...

, left ilium
Ilium (bone)
The ilium is the uppermost and largest bone of the pelvis, and appears in most vertebrates including mammals and birds, but not bony fish. All reptiles have an ilium except snakes, although some snake species have a tiny bone which is considered to be an ilium.The name comes from the Latin ,...

, and left and right pubes
Pubis (bone)
In vertebrates, the pubic bone is the ventral and anterior of the three principal bones composing either half of the pelvis.It is covered by a layer of fat, which is covered by the mons pubis....

. The incomplete fusion of some of its bones indicate that it was not quite fully mature.

Aerosteon did not initially appear to belong to any of the three groups of large theropods that were known to have inhabited the southern continents
In paleogeography, Gondwana , originally Gondwanaland, was the southernmost of two supercontinents that later became parts of the Pangaea supercontinent. It existed from approximately 510 to 180 million years ago . Gondwana is believed to have sutured between ca. 570 and 510 Mya,...

 during this time (namely the Abelisauridae
Abelisauridae is a family of ceratosaurian theropod dinosaurs. Abelisaurids thrived during the Cretaceous Period, on the ancient southern supercontinent of Gondwana, and today their fossil remains are found on the modern continents of Africa and South America, as well as on the Indian...

, Carcharodontosauridae
Carcharodontosaurids were a group of carnivorous theropod dinosaurs. In 1931 Ernst Stromer named Carcharodontosauridae as a family, in modern paleontology this name indicates a clade within Carnosauria...

 or Spinosauridae
Spinosauridae is a family of specialised theropod dinosaurs. Members of this family were large, bipedal predators with elongated, crocodile-like skulls, sporting conical teeth with no or only very tiny serrations. The front dentary teeth fanned out, giving the animal a characteristic look...

). Sereno
Paul Sereno
Paul Callistus Sereno is an American paleontologist from the University of Chicago who discovered several new dinosaur species on several continents. He has conducted excavations at sites as varied as Inner Mongolia, Argentina, Morocco, and Niger...

 suggested that it might be related to the Allosauroid radiation of the Jurassic
The Jurassic is a geologic period and system that extends from about Mya to  Mya, that is, from the end of the Triassic to the beginning of the Cretaceous. The Jurassic constitutes the middle period of the Mesozoic era, also known as the age of reptiles. The start of the period is marked by...

 period, and this was confirmed in subsequent studies that recognized a clade of late-surviving, lightly built, advanced allosauroids with large hand claws similar to the spinosaurs, called the Megaraptora, within the allosaur family Neovenatoridae
Neovenatoridae is a family of large carnivorous dinosaurs. The group is a branch of the allosauroids, a large group of carnosaurs that also includes the sinraptorids, carcharodontosaurids, and allosaurids...



Some of Aerosteon's bones show pneumatisation (air-filled spaces), including pneumatic hollowing of the furcula and ilium, and pneumatisation of several gastralia, suggesting that it may have had a respiratory air-sac system similar to that of modern bird
Birds are feathered, winged, bipedal, endothermic , egg-laying, vertebrate animals. Around 10,000 living species and 188 families makes them the most speciose class of tetrapod vertebrates. They inhabit ecosystems across the globe, from the Arctic to the Antarctic. Extant birds range in size from...

s. These air sacs would have acted like bellows, moving air into and out of the animal's relatively inflexible lungs, instead of the lungs being expanded and contracted as occurs with mammals. See avian respiratory system for more detailed information on this.

Sereno theorises that this respiratory system may have developed to assist with regulating body temperature and was later co-opted for breathing.

Classification and naming

Aerosteon was first described by Sereno et al. in a paper which appeared in the online journal PLoS ONE in September 2008. However, at the time, the International Code of Zoological Nomenclature
International Code of Zoological Nomenclature
The International Code of Zoological Nomenclature is a widely accepted convention in zoology that rules the formal scientific naming of organisms treated as animals...

did not recognize online publication of names for new species as valid unless print copies were also produced and distributed to several libraries, and that this action is noted in the paper itself. PLoS ONE initially failed to meet this requirement for Aerosteon. On 21 May 2009, the journal's managing editor coordinated with the ICZN to correct this oversight, publishing a comment to the original paper with an addendum stating that the requirements had been met as of that date. Consequently, though the description appeared in 2008, Aerosteon was not a valid name until 2009.

External links