Scientists say the fossil of a small reptile related to dinosaurs and pterosaurs suggests some of the largest animals to live on Earth may have had extremely small ancestors.
A newly described species from Madagascar named Kongonaphon kely – “tiny bug slayer” – would have stood just 10 centimetres tall when it was around some 237 million years ago, they say, and may help explain the origins of flight in pterosaurs.
“There’s a general perception of dinosaurs as being giants but this new animal is very close to the divergence of dinosaurs and pterosaurs and it’s shockingly small,” says Christian Kammerer, lead author of a paper in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
The project involved input from the American Museum of Natural History, Madagascar’s University of Antananarivo, the University of California Santa Barbara and the Field Museum, US.
“This fossil site… from a poorly known time interval globally has produced some amazing fossils, and this tiny specimen was jumbled in among the hundreds we’ve collected from the site over the years,” says John Flynn, who led the team that found it in 1998.