Canadian dig yields tiny dinosaur





The smallest meat-eating dinosaur yet to be found in North America has been identified from six tiny pelvic bones.

Hesperonychus was the size of a small-chicken, and used its rows of serrated teeth to feed on insects, experts say.

The bird-like creature is closely related to Microraptor - a tiny feathered dinosaur discovered in China.

The specimen helps to confirm that reptiles, and not mammals, filled the role of small predators during the age of the dinosaurs.

The fossil skeleton, which lay misidentified for 25 years as a lizard, belongs to a group of dinosaurs called the theropods - bipedal reptiles that eventually gave rise to birds.

"Despite the discovery of exquisitely preserved skeletons of small bird-like dinosaurs in Asia, they are exceedingly rare in North America," explained Dr Philip Currie, a palaeontologist from the University of Calgary and co-author on the paper.

Dr Currie had been pondering why so few small fossils have been unearthed in Alberta, Canada - one of the world's richest sites for large-dinosaur bones.

The authors also suggest this discovery helps to resolve debate over whether flight originated from animals that ran on the ground, flapping their arms, or whether it started with tree-climbing animals gliding downwards.




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