- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 17, 2009


Imagine a vicious velociraptor like those in “Jurassic Park,” but only as big as a modern chicken.

That’s what Canadian researchers say they have found, the smallest meat-eating dinosaur yet discovered in North America.

This pint-sized cousin of velociraptor, weighing in at 4 to 5 pounds, “probably hunted and ate whatever it could for its size - insects, mammals, amphibians and maybe even baby dinosaurs,” said Nicholas Longrich of the University of Calgary.

The creature lived 75 million years ago in the swamps and forests of southern Alberta, Mr. Longrich and colleague Philip J. Currie report in Tuesday’s edition of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

There has been plenty of evidence for large- and medium-size dinosaurs in North America, but not small ones, Mr. Longrich said. Now researchers see there was a dinosaur filling that niche as well.

The bones of the small raptor were discovered among fossils that had been collected a quarter-century ago and remained in a museum drawer, Mr. Longrich said.

Similar small dinosaurs have been uncovered in China in the past few years, and studying those helped the researchers identify this North American version.

“It was hard to tell because it was still encased in rock,” Mr. Longrich said. “It is only because I had been studying the Chinese dinosaurs I could tell what it was.”

“Once we got it out of the rock it was a pretty nice specimen,” he said.

Like the velociraptor, the tiny raptor had claws. At first the small claws were thought to come from juveniles, Mr. Longrich said. “But when we studied the pelvis, we found the hip bones were fused, which would only have happened once the animal was fully grown.”

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