Researcher finds tiny dino in world of giants

Tue Sep 23, 2008 5:40pm EDT
Email This Article |
Share This Article
  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • Twitter
| Print This Article | Single Page
[-] Text [+]

By Jeffrey Jones

CALGARY, Alberta (Reuters) - A Canadian researcher has discovered what is believed to be North America's smallest dinosaur, a 70-million-year-old chicken-sized beast that was also unusual for its diet of insects.

Called the Albertonykus borealis, the odd-looking creature had bird-like features including slender legs, jaws like pincers and stubby arms with big claws.

Its bones were excavated near Red Deer, in fossil-rich Alberta, in 2002 among about 20 Albertosaurus remains, and went unnoticed.

The dinosaur is a newly discovered member of the family Alvarezsauridae, from which fossils had previously been dug up only in South America and Mongolia, said Nick Longrich, paleontology research associate at the University of Calgary.

The find is evidence that the dinosaurs migrated to Asia from the bottom part of the western hemisphere, Longrich said.

His research on the Albertonykus is published in the journal Cretaceous Research.

"Most of the dinosaurs we know about -- things like Tyrannosaurus, giant carnivores, or Triceratops, big herbivores -- are large. This thing is very small, about 2-1/2 feet (two-thirds of a meter) long and we think it's doing something very different: we think it might have actually been an insectivore," he said.

It was not made for digging, like moles. Its features were not unlike those of anteaters, and Longrich said it appears it tore into logs so it could feast on termites or beetles.   Continued...

<p>Nick Longrich, a palaeontology research associate in the Department of Biological Sciences at the University of Calgary, announces the discovery of North America's smallest dinosaur in Calgary September 23, 2008. The dinosaur is 70 million years old, the size of a chicken, is called Albertonykus borealis and looks like an animal created by "Dr. Seuss.". REUTERS/Todd Korol</p>