Researchers have discovered a tiny relative to the dinosaur near Madagascar that lived about 237 million years ago. The tiny dinosaur relative is a newly described species called Kongonaphon kely, translating to “tiny bug slayer.” The small dinosaur relative would have been only about four-inches tall.
Scientists believe that the newly discovered species could help explain the origins of flight in pterosaurs, the presence of “fuzz” on the skin of pterosaurs and dinosaurs along with answering other mysteries about the creatures. Researcher Christian Kammerer says that the general perceptions of dinosaurs are of giant creatures. The new animal is very close to the diversions of dinosaurs and pterosaurs and is very small.
Both dinosaurs and pterosaurs belong to the group Ornithodira. However, their regions are poorly known, with few specimens from near the root of the lineage discovered. The creature was discovered initially as fossilized remains in 1998 in Madagascar. The team says that the fossil site where the sample was found is in southwestern Madagascar and is from a poorly known time interval globally.
The site has produced what the team calls some amazing fossils in the tiny specimen talked about here was jumbled among the hundreds collected from the site over the years. Researchers say it took time before they could focus on this fossil specifically, but once it was examined, it was clear, the creature was unique and deserved a closer look.
Kongonaphon isn’t the first fossil discovered from near the root of the ornithodiran family tree, but the previous examples were considered isolated exceptions to the rule. The team says that research indicates dinosaur and pterosaur lineages originated from tiny ancestors. The team also says that the fuzzy skin coverings on both the dinosaur and pterosaur sides of the ornithodiran tree could have originated from the need for thermoregulation in the small-bodied common ancestor.