New Madagascar dinosaur species had tiny arms

Almost 10 years have passed since a new Madagascar dinosaur species was introduced to the world. Please welcome the Dahalokely tokana to the archeological history books.

Don't try to play patty-cake with this dinosaur.
Andrew Farke and Joseph Sertich

Don't cry for Tyrannosaurus rex and its teensy-weensy arms. It was in good company in the dinosaur kingdom with a recently discovered new species found in Madagascar. After a nearly 10-year dino drought on the island, two researchers uncovered the Dahalokely tokana, a creature with big back legs and itsy-bitsy front arms.

Andrew Farke in Madagascar
Andrew Farke at the site of Dahalokely's discovery. (Click to enlarge.) Alf Museum

The critter was about as tall as a human male, but had a length of 9 to 14 feet. What helped the researchers peg it as a new species were some unique characteristics of the vertebrae, including the shape of cavities on the side. For dinosaur species, that's a lot like finding a fingerprint.

Besides being a new species, Dahalokely is also helping to fill in some puzzling gaps in the fossil record for Madagascar. "We had always suspected that abelisauroids were in Madagascar 90 million years ago, because they were also found in younger rocks on the island. Dahalokely nicely confirms this hypothesis," said project leader Andrew Farke, curator of paleontology at the Alf Museum.

Farke and Joe Sertich, curator at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science, published their findings in PLOS ONE. They also managed to write my all-time favorite line from a scientific paper abstract while describing the new dino: "Autapomorphies include a prominently convex prezygoepipophyseal lamina on cervical vertebrae and a divided infraprezygapophyseal fossa through the mid-dorsal region, among others." Sweet!

The meat-eating Dahalokely lived about 90 million years ago, way back when Madagascar and India were connected, leading to speculation that the dino could be an ancestor to animals in both places. "The bones known so far preserve an intriguing mix of features found in dinosaurs from both Madagascar and India," says a report from the Alf Museum.

There is a certain art to naming a dinosaur. "Dahalokely tokana" means "lonely little bandit." Aw. It makes me want to take it home and care for it, except that it would eat my cats for breakfast.

(Via Red Orbit)