'Small Bandit' Carnivorous Dinosaur Found

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A new meat-loving dinosaur, “Lonely Small Bandit,” has helped fill a big gap in Madagascar’s dinosaur records.

The dinosaur, whose scientific name is Dahalokely tokana is the first new species of dino from the island country in nearly a decade.

Before this discovery, dinosaurs that lived 165 million years ago and 70 million years ago were known from the region. This left a pretty big gap, which the latest find helps to fill.

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As an abelisauroid, it tromped around on two legs and had two tiny arms a/la T. rex. Its common name comes from the fact that it probably hunted and scavenged any meat it could find at a time when Madagascar and India were connected, yet isolated from other continents.

“We had always suspected that abelisauroids 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 abelisauroids on Madagascar, or did it die out without descendants?”

What we do know is that Lonely Small Bandit measured between 9 and 14 feet long. The accompanying image shows how it would have measured up next to an average-sized person. Thankfully we were not around then to participate in such an actual stand off.

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The image reveals where recovered bones for the dino would have been in its body. The shape of some cavities on the side of its vertebrae were found to be unlike those of any other dinosaur. Other fossil features present an interesting mix of characteristics found in dinos from both India and Madagascar.

Geographical evidence indicates that Madagascar and India separated around 88 million years ago, not too long after Little Small Bandit died out. Remains of the dino were found near the city of Antsiranana in northernmost 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 project member 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.”

A paper about the recently unearthed find appears in the latest issue of PLoS ONE.

(Image: Outline of Dahalokely tokana with a human for scale, showing known bones in white and missing areas patterned after related animals; Credit: Andrew Farke and Joseph Sertich)