Velociraptors are represented by the genus Velociraptor ("speedy predator"), which is one of a group of human-sized theropods or carnivorous dinosaurs that existed during the Cretaceous in North America and Asia. Theropods include all dinosaurian carnivores and are allied to the sauropods, very large, long-necked herbivores, in a major group of dinosaurs called the Saurischia. These dinosaurs are all characterized by the forward projection of the pubis, which separates them from the other major group, the Ornithischia, in which the pubis is directed backward. Velociraptors are most closely related to a group of similar predators that includes the dromaeosaur Deinonychus, which is extremely well known from articulated skeletons found in Montana andWyoming, described by Yale University's John Ostrom in the late 1960's and early 1970's. One result of cladistic analysis of the relationships of this group is that they have been shown to be the closest relatives of Archaeopteryx, the earliest known bird. Archaeopteryx is known only from the latest Jurassic, and the dromaeosaurs are entirely Cretaceous, so it has been suggested that either dromaeosaurs represent a group of secondarily flightless birds, or alternatively that ancestral forms in the Jurassic await discovery.
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