April 24, 2013
Think scientists have discovered all the dinosaurs there are to find? Think again.
Paleontologists who unearthed seven vertebrae and a few rib fragments in Diego-Suarez, Madagascar in 2007 and 2010 have now identified them as belonging to a previously unknown dino species they call Dahalokely tokana.
Don’t speak Malagasy? The name means “lonely little bandit.”
Vertebra fossil (second dorsal), one of seven found in Madagascar belonging to Dahalokely tokana, from two angles.
Dahalokely is believed to have been an abelisauroid, a type of carnivorous dinosaur that lived 90 million years ago during the Cretaceous Period. It had stocky hind legs and tiny arms, and measured around nine to 14 feet in length — and was likely a top predator in its ecosystem.
“This discovery highlights the fact that there are still thousands of new dinosaurs out there waiting to be discovered.” Dr. Joseph Sertich, curator of vertebrate paleontology at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, told the Huffington Post in an email. “Each one is significant in what it can tell us about dinosaur evolution, the past positions of continents, and even the ancient ecosystems these dinosaurs lived in.”
Paleontologist Andrew Farke, lead author of the study naming Dahalokely, at the discovery site for the animal
So what exactly does Dahalokely teach us?
For starters, its discovery may help scientists trace dinosaur ancestry by filling in a 20-million-year gap in Madagascar’s fossil record. What’s more, the dino’s fossilized bones are the first to be discovered from the critical period of Madagascar’s geological history, before it separated 88 million years ago from the landmass now known as India. While Dahalokely‘s features bear resemblance to later dinosaurs found in both locations, it will take more bones to determine whether it was related to these later species, or died out without descendants.
The findings were published online April 18th in PLoSONE.