The discovery of a small, parrot-sized dinosaur in northeastern China near the Inner Mongolian town of Linhe literarly points to a new direction in the evolution of hands among prehistoric beasts, according to a report published in today’s online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Christened Linhenykus monodactylus the creature walked on two-legs like velocirpators and T-Rex. Yet unlike its ferocious cousins, Linhenykus had only one finger on each hand instead of the (usual) three. As a result, scientists have placed it in the family of alvarezsauroids, “small, long-legged dinosaurs that had one big finger alongside two barely functional nub fingers.”
“ Actually Linhenykus' hand does have a leftover bone for a second finger, but the nub of a digit wouldn't have worked at all,” stated study leader Xu Xing of the Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology in Beijing, adding that "Some researchers speculate that these dinosaurs used their hands to dig up nests of termites."
Alvarezsauroid fossils have been found all over the world, including North and South America as well as Asia, and date back from the late Jurassic to the late Cretaceous period.
"They probably originated in Asia, then dispersed from Asia to (the ancient supercontinent) Gondwana, and then back to Asia, and finally from Asia to North America," speculated Xu, who said that the new find was discovered in a rock formation dating back some 84-75 million years.
To learn more about dinosaurs here in Connecticut check out Dinosaur State Park in Rocky Hill at http://www.dinosaurstatepark.org/ as well as The Dinosaur Place in Montville at http://www.thedinosaurplace.com