Chicken-Sized Dino Discovered In Museum Drawers

The smallest meat-eating dinosaur ever found in North America has been pieced together from fossils that recently materialized in drawers at two separate Canadian museums. When it lived 75 million years ago, it looked something like the velociraptors made famous in the Jurassic Park movies, but it was only the size of a chicken and weighed about 4 or 5 pounds.

Here, an artist's rendering of what the tiny dinosaur might have looked like:

Artist's rendering of Hesperonychus
N. Longrich

   

"Skeletons of small vertebrates are vanishingly rare" from this period, says Nicholas Longrich, a paleontologist at the University of Calgary. In fact, dinosaurs from the Late Cretaceous period tended to be big. Longrich calls the dinosaur Hesperonychus elizabethae.

   

He discovered the pelvis specimen in the museum collection at the University of Alberta, still encased in rock and apparently forgotten for 25 years. The claw fossil was discovered in a museum drawer at the Tyrrell Museum in Drumheller.

Below is a chart comparing the size of Hesperonychus to other contemporaneous dinosaurs and a human.

  

Hesperonychus was about the size of a chicken
N. Longrich

   

Longrich says it suggests that there might indeed have been room for small-bodied dinosaurs to compete and survive in a world dominated by big meat-eating dinosaurs and, eventually, early mammals. He describes the discovery in this week's issue of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

   

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