New Dino May Be World's Smallest

Friday, June 10, 2011

A new species of carnivorous non-avian dinosaur, described in the latest issue of Cretaceous Research, could be the world’s smallest known dinosaur.

The tiny dinosaur, dubbed the "Ashdown maniraptoran," measures about a foot in length and was unearthed in the United Kingdom. It lived during the Lower Cretaceous, a period lasting from 145 to 100 million years ago.

"It perhaps weighed as little as 200 grams (seven ounces)," co-author Darren Naish told Discovery News. "Like other maniraptoran theropods, this would have been a small, feathered, bird-like bipedal dinosaur with a fairly short tail, long neck, long slim hind legs, and feathered clawed forelimbs."

Naish is an honorary research associate in the School of Earth & Environmental Sciences at the University of Portsmouth. He and colleague Steven Sweetman analyzed the remains of the dinosaur, unearthed in the Pivensey Pit at Ashdown Brickworks, a site located northwest of Bexhill, East Sussex.

"The Isle of Wight, Surrey and East Sussex are all hotspots that frequently reveal new dinosaur species, which is not bad for a country that has probably been more thoroughly explored and studied than any other in the world," Naish said.

He and Sweetman conclude that the discovered fossil, a posterior cervical vertebra, likely belonged to a previously undocumented dinosaur species, since there are no named dinos that were maniraptoran theropods from the same-aged rocks from the same region.

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