24 June 2011
Posted in DinoDigs
Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, it’s a dinosaur! LiveScience.com reports that a small adult dinosaur fossil has been found in the southern U.K. At roughly 15.7 inches long, the new fossil could belong to the world’s tiniest dinosaur.
Many of us think dinosaurs were all large creatures that roamed the Earth. But there were actually many smaller groups of dinos that existed as well millions of years ago. University of Portsmouth paleozoologist Darren Naish explained the tiny neck bone belonged to a creature from the maniraptoran group that lived in the Cretaceous period 145 million to 100 million years ago. It is this group that is thought to have led to modern day birds. Because only one vertebra has been found, researchers are unable to say what the dino ate and how long it truly was.
Two techniques were used to estimate the size of the maniraptoran. One method involved fitting a digital model of the dinosaur's neck into a body of a generic maniraptoran. The other method used neck-to-body ratios of other related dinosaurs to estimate the maniraptoran's length. Both methods estimated the size of the dino to be 13 to 15.7 inches.
The new dinosaur has not been named yet, but it’s being referred to as the “Ashdown dino,” based on the location where it was found. If the Ashdown dino is found to be the smallest on record, it will beat out Anchiornis, another birdlike dinosaur that lived in what is now China 160 million to 155 million years ago. It would also be smaller than North America's smallest known dinosaur, Hesperonychus elizabethae, a velociraptor-like predator that was about a foot and a half (50 cm) tall and weighed 4 pounds (2 kilograms).
A newly-discovered maniraptoran dinosaur may have looked like the feathered dinosaur seen here, about to become a snack for the larger Darwinopterus modularis.
CREDIT: Mark Witton/University of Portsmouth