(Photo : courtesy Wikimedia)
A small, meat-loving dinosaur, is filling a big space in Madagascar's dinosaur records.
The so-named "Lonely Small Bandit," which sports the scientific name Dahalokely tokana, is the first new dinosaur species identified on the island country in nearly a decade.
Before the latest find, researchers knew of dinos that that lived 165 million years ago and also 70 million years ago, but had limited knowledge of what kinds of creatures in habited the area between those eras.
According to a paper published the scientific journal PLoS ONE, the Lonely Small Bandit measured between 9 and 14 feet long, tromped around on two legs and had two tiny arms, like the well-known Tyrannosaurus rex .
Its common "Bandit" name was inspired by the fact the Dahalokely tokana likely hunted and scavenged for any meat it could find, at a time when Madagascar and India were connected but yet isolated from other continents.
"We had always suspected that abelisaurids [carnivorous theropods] were in Madagascar 90 million years ago, because they were also found in younger rocks on the island," project leader Andrew Farke said in a press release. "Dahalokely nicely confirms this hypothesis. But, the fossils of Dahalokely are tantalizingly incomplete - there is so much more we want to know. Was Dahalokely closely related to later abelisaurids on Madagascar, or did it die out without descendants?"
Remains of the Lonely Small Bandit were found near the city of Antsiranana, in northernmost Madagascar. Some of the cavities on the side of its vertebrae were shaped unlike those of any other known dinosaur. Other fossil features seemed to be a combination of characteristics found in species from both India and Madagascar.
"This dinosaur was closely related to other famous dinosaurs from the southern continents, like the horned Carnotaurus from Argentina and Majungasaurus, also from Madagascar," said Joe Sertich, Curator of Dinosaurs at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science and the team member who discovered the new dinosaur. "This just reinforces the importance of exploring new areas around the world where undiscovered dinosaur species are still waiting."
Geographical evidence indicates that Madagascar and India separated around 88 million years ago, not too long after Little Small Bandit died out.