Offbeat

World’s Smallest Dinosaur Discovered in Canada

The expression “good things come in small packages” may still be true in certain instances.

However, the repercussions of the power of small living things may well be questioned by the discovery of what is now believed to be the smallest meat-eating dinosaur found to date in North America.

velociraptordinosaurThe creature, which in life was about the size of a chicken, was a formidable predator who roamed the swamps and forests of southern Alberta some 75 million years ago.

The Velociraptor, or raptor, was the terrifying creature popularized in Steven Spielburg’s 1993 classic film based on the Michael Crichton thriller, Jurassic Park. This newly uncovered dinosaur is of the same family, but much smaller.

A pint-sized cousin weighing 4 to 5 pounds, this critter most likely hunted and devoured whatever it could fit down its gullet. Brunch could have been insects, small mammals, amphibians and maybe even the babies of those dinosaurs who might have grown to be angry relatives.

According to Nicholas Longrich of the University of Calgary:

dinoclaw“The bones of the small raptor were discovered among fossils that had been collected a quarter-century ago and remained in a museum drawer. It was hard to tell because it was still encased in rock. Once we got it out of the rock, it was a pretty nice specimen. It is only because I had been studying similar small dinosaurs found in China that I could tell what it was.”

Before the categorization of this find, the smallest carnivorous dinosaurs found in North America have been about the size of a wolf. Longrich and colleague Philip J. Currie have named the creature Hesperonychus elizabethae, after the late Canadian paleontologist Elizabeth “Betsy” Nicholls, who originally recovered the specimen.

The word Hesperonychus translates into “western claw”, which refers to the enlarged (and very nasty) sickle-shaped claw on its second toe which is thought to have been used to kill its prey.

According once again to Longrich:

raptor2“There has been plenty of evidence for large and medium-size dinosaurs in North America, but not small ones. Now researchers see there was a dinosaur filling that niche also…The find emphasizes how little we actually know, and it raises the possibility that there are even smaller ones out there waiting to be found.”

In the words of Shakespeare, who, as usual, said it so much better than anyone else:

“And so my dear Horatio, there truly are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”

Sleep well, dear reader.

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