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The Smallest known Ornithiscian Dinosaur

A paper describing Fruitadens haagarorum, a newly named species of tiny dinosaur, was published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B on October 21st, 2009. Fruitadens is known from four fragmentary individuals, all of which are housed in the Dinosaur Institute. Thought to have weighed around 2 lbs and measured just over 2 feet in length, Fruitadens is currently the smallest known dinosaur from North America and the smallest known ornithiscian dinosaur. It is also within the lowest known size limit of all dinosaurs, outside of birds. Histological analysis confirmed that 2 of the individuals were young adults and were nearly full grown. The 4 known individuals were found in the 150 million year old rocks of the Late Jurassic Morrison Formation, in the Fruita Paleontological Area of Colorado. The publication of the specimen garnered worldwide media attention when it was released in October, and many bones will eventually be on permanent public display in the new dinosaur galleries set to open in 2011.

Title:  "Lower limits of ornithischian dinosaur body size inferred from a new Upper Jurassic heterodontosaurid from North America"
Authors: Butler, Richard J.; Galton, Peter M.; Porro, Laura B.; Chiappe, Luis M.; Henderson, D. M.; and Erickson, Gregory M.
Published: Proceedings of the Royal Society B.2009.

 


A New Primitive Bird

Researchers at the Dinosaur Institute, in collaboration with researchers from Florida, Mongolia, and Japan, recently published the discovery of a new species of fossil bird, Hollanda luceria, from the Late Cretaceous of the Mongolian Gobi Desert. While the fossil is fragmentary, with only the hindlimbs preserved, researchers have still been able to learn a great deal from this new bird. First, an analysis of skeletal features and bone histology reveals H. luceria  to belong to the Ornithuromorph clade, indicating it is highly derived and closely related to modern birds. Additionally, a statistical comparison of the proportions of the toe bones of Hollanda to those of over 500 modern birds reveal that Hollanda was most similar to terrestrial birds such as the roadrunner or turkey. Therefore, H. luceria was probably a swift terrestrial hunter of insects, lizards, and small mammals which shared it's Gobi habitat.

The genus name of this important new bird, Hollanda, reflects the crucial funding role of the Holland family to the Dinosaur Institute. The Holland's contributions have made possible a great deal of the Dinosaur Institute's research, both in the lab and the field. The species name luceria is in tribute to the band Lucero of Memphis, Tennessee.  Naming a species after musicians (or other celebrities) is not uncommon, and Lucero now joins the ranks of artists such as Mick Jagger, Neil Young, Simon and Garfunkel, and Mozart in having a species named after them.

 

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