One Digit Dinosaur Unearthed

On the border between Mongolia and China there has been a discovery of a new species of dinosaur. Found near the city of Linhe, the new discovery was given the name Linhenykus monodactylus. This dinosaur belongs in the carnivorous group of Theropoda which also include the Tyrannosaurus and Velociraptor.

What the Linhenykus monodactylus may have looked like
What the Linhenykus monodactylus may have looked like

Scientists from China, the United Kingdom, and the United States unearthed a partial skeleton that was preserved in rocks. The skeleton included bones of the vertebral column, the forelimb, a partial pelvis, and hind limbs that were almost complete. The formation where these fossils were found dates to 84-75 million years ago, which would put these dinosaurs roaming the earth during the mid to late Cretaceous period.

What makes this dinosaur so unique is that it is the only dinosaur ever found to have only one digit on its hands. It was believed to have been a small dinosaur, growing to be a couple of feet tall, and it weighed about as much as a large parrot. Scientists guess that the one large claw was used to dig into insect nests.

There is a broad difference in the formation of dinosaur limbs. Some of them have five digits, some have three, and some just two. Theropoda started with five digits and eventually evolved to only three fingers. Tyrannosaurs had only two fingers, but the evolution to the one-fingered dinosaur really puzzled the scientists who discovered it. Michael Pittman of the Department of Earth Sciences at University College London, one of the scientists who discovered the miniature dinosaur, says that the discovery shows “how extensive and complex Theropoda hand modifications really were.”

The Linhenykus evolution into one finger may have just been because they lived closely to similarly sized dinosaurs, but they may have had a difference in their behavior or foraging methods. Their disappearance was probably caused by a lack of natural selection.

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