Dromaeosaurid theropods represent a rare but important clade of nonavialan dinosaurs. Their close evolutionary relationship to modern birds has placed them at the center of paleontological research for the last several decades. Herein we describe a new species of dromaeosaurid—Kuru kulla, gen. et sp. nov.—based on a partial skeleton from the Late Cretaceous Khulsan locality (Barun Goyot Formation) of Mongolia. This species is diagnosed by several autapomorphies within Dromaeosauridae, including a sharp groove anterior and ventral to the narial fossa on the premaxilla, a posterolaterally directed hornlet on the posterodorsal process of the lacrimal, a deep surangular bearing two surangular foramina, and anteriorly displaced pleurocoels on the dorsal centra. The taxon is further characterized by a unique combination of characters, including a mediolaterally narrow metatarsal II, serrations on both carinae of the dentary teeth, hyposphenes that are widely separated but joined by a web of bone, and a lacrimal with a poorly developed boss on its lateral surface. Phylogenetic analysis finds Kuru kulla to be the sister taxon of Adasaurus mongoliensis, from the slightly later Nemegt Formation, with which it is united by three synapomorphies: a posterior surangular foramen that is ∼30% the depth of the surangular, absence of a fourth trochanter of the femur, and thoracic centra that are markedly longer than their midpoint widths. The recognition of this taxon has important implications for common assumptions of Mesozoic terrestrial ecosystem structure and adds new data to a recently recognized pattern in dromaeosaurid faunal composition among Late Cretaceous localities in Mongolia and Inner Mongolia (Nei Mongol Autonomous Region, China).
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Vol. 2021 • No. 3982