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The term "Raptor" is used to describe any small to medium sized, bird-like dinosaur, and is also short for Velociraptor. The name Dromaeosauridae means 'running lizards', from Greek dromeus (δρομευς) meaning 'runner' and sauros (σαυρος) meaning 'lizard'.

Dromaeosaurid fossils have been found in North America, Europe, Africa, Japan, China, Mongolia, Madagascar, Argentina, and Antarctica. They first appeared in the mid-Jurassic Period (late Bathonian stage, about 164 million years ago) and survived until the end of the Cretaceous (Maastrichtian stage, 66 ma), existing for over 100 million years, up until the Cretaceous–Paleogene extinction event. The presence of dromaeosaurs as early as the Middle Jurassic has been confirmed by the discovery of isolated fossil teeth, though no dromaeosaurid body fossils have been found from this period.

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