British Fossil Collector Kept Specimen in Bedside Draw

An amateur fossil collector who kept one of his fossil finds in his bedside draw has had it identified as cervical vertebrae from one of the smallest dinosaurs known to science.  In a paper published in the scientific journal “Cretaceous Research”, scientists from the University of Portsmouth have identified the specimen as being from one of the smallest dinosaurs known in the fossil record.

The fossil was found at the site of an old brickworks, near Bexhill in Sussex.  This location has yielded a number of vertebrate specimens dating from the Mesozoic, including some large dinosaur bones, but nothing as important as this tiny dinosaur fossil.  However, unaware of its importance, the amateur fossil collector kept this item in his bedside draw.

Palaeontologist Dr Steve Sweetman commented:

“It represents the smallest dinosaur we have yet discovered in the European fossil record.”

Although the fossil is fragmentary, comparisons made between this specimen and other Theropod dinosaurs indicate that this animal was between 33cm and 40cm in length, about the size of a Magpie.  The fossil was found by local fossil collector David Brockhurst who actually works on the brickworks site.

An Artist’s Illustration of the “Ashdown Maniraptoran”

Picture Credit: AFP

Nicknamed the “Ashdown Maniraptoran”, it is not known whether this dinosaur was carnivorous or omnivorous although it was believed it was a member of that group of dinosaurs that included all the two-legged meat-eaters known as Theropods.

Experts also said the new dinosaur had clear similarities with Maniraptorans, a group of Theropods including birds, making it likely to belong to this group.

They found the fossilised remains were from a fully-grown dinosaur because the main body of the neck vertebrae was fully fused to the arch-shaped part of the vertebrae that sits on top, meaning that it was skeletally mature.  Equally small dinosaur fossils are known but these are believed to belong to sub-adults or not fully grown animals.

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