Scientists have discovered the smallest species of dinosaurs ever found in Wyoming. The length of the dinosaur is estimated to be 3 feet. The new research was published this week in the scientific journal PeerJ. The tiny dinosaur helps understand the link between modern-day birds and their ancestors who lived on the ground.
Lomax and his team’s initial study proved that the dinosaur existed in the late Jurassic period. The researchers estimated the dinosaur to have belonged to a group called the troodontids who were closely related to small, fast carnivores such as Velociraptors. The Hesperornithoides, though ground-dwellers, had a lot of bird-like features such as long claws, feathers, etc. However, the researchers concluded that the small size of its wings mean that it couldn’t have taken flight.
The fossils of the dinosaur were discovered back in 2001 during an excavation meant to find the remains of a sauropod, the most giant is known dinosaurs to have ever existed on Earth. The researchers were trying to find the traces of Supersaurus, a 111-foot-long sauropod. The paleontologists accidentally found the fossils of a Hesperornithoides miessleri which they named as Lori. The name is a reference to an excavator, Lori Hockemeyer, who was involved in finding the fossils. The fossils are currently displayed at the Wyoming Dinosaur Center in Thermopolis.
The fossils of the dinosaur were found near The Morrison Formation, one of the richest sources of dinosaur fossils located in the western United States. Before the discovery of Lori, the province was known only for the discovery of gigantic dinosaurs like Brachiosaurus, Diplodocus, and Stegosaurus. A co-author of the study, Dean Lomax, explains how this discovery is significant due to the small size of the dinosaur, which “demonstrates that the Morrison Formation was more diverse than previously known … and shows that there were little dinosaurs around.” Lomax is a paleontologist at the University of Manchester in the U.K.