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Posted 25 January 2011

Scientists unearth tiny ‘one-fingered’ dinosaur in China

Scientists have discovered the preserved skeletal remains of a previously unidentified theropod dinosaur in a rock formation on the border between Mongolia and China which dates back between 84 and 75 million years ago.

The partial dinosaur skeleton includes bones of the vertebral column, the forelimb, a partial pelvis, and almost complete hind limbs. According to the international scientific team, this is the only known dinosaur specimen with one finger and claw at the end of each forelimb (or arm).

The discovery published in the scientific journal PNAS (24 Jan 2011) highlights the complex pattern of evolution in the hand of the theropod dinosaur group. This dinosaur group ultimately gave rise to modern birds.

Artist's impression of two Sinosauropteryx - Feather-like structures in fossils of the dinosaur suggest it had reddish-brown and white tail stripes.
Graphic illustration of Linhenykus monodactylus by Julius T. Csotonyi

“We have named the theropod dinosaur Linhenykus monodactylus,” says Dr David Hone from the UCD School of Biology and Environmental Science, one of the scientific team involved in the discovery.

Linhenykus means ‘claw from Linhe’, and Linhe is the city in Inner Mongolia near where the specimen was found, and monodactylus means ‘one-fingered’.”

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“This tiny insectivorous dinosaur lived roughly 80 million years ago, and would have weighed about 1 pound (450 grams), measured about 15 inches (40 centimeters) from head to tail, and reached to just below the average person’s knee,” he explains.

“In Linhenykus monodactylus it appears that the smaller fingers, present in close relatives, have atrophied to simply leave one remaining large finger. This group of dinosaurs are thought to have foraged for termites as one of their main food sources in a generally arid desert environment.”

The international scientific team was led by Professor Xing Xu from the Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology & Paleoanthropology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing. Xu is currently one of the world’s leading palaeontologists. He has published several seminal scientific papers and has named more dinosaur species than any other scientist.

The expedition took place in Central Inner Mongolia during 2008. And the region where the skeletal remains were found is an officially protected Chinese National Park. 


(Produced by UCD University Relations)


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graphic illustration of Linhenykus monodactylus © Julius T. Csotonyi
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