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  Geotimes - November 2007 - The little dino that could
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Paleontology
The little dino that could

An artistís rendition of Mahakala omnogovae
Copyright Frank Ippolito 2007
An artist’s rendition of the 70-centimeter-long Mahakala omnogovae, a new tiny dinosaur that is overturning previous thinking about dinosaur evolution.

A flying dinosaur found in Mongolia is so small that it is overturning previous thinking about how and when dinosaurs evolved and took flight. Researchers have long debated from which dinosaur modern birds descended, but one thing that was generally agreed upon was that miniaturization was the last in a long series of evolutionary changes that dinosaurs made before taking flight, and thus becoming “birds.”

The new find, however, suggests that small size was actually common in the two different early dinosaur lineages that are most closely related to birds. Furthermore, the team found, some dinosaurs within the lineages actually grew bigger through time, not smaller. Thus, wrote Alan Turner of the American Museum of Natural History in New York and colleagues in Science Sept. 7, researchers will have to rethink the causal factors and timing of the evolution of traits seen in dinosaurs and modern birds.

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