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New predatory dog-sized dinosaur unearthed on Madagascar

Fossilized remains of a bizarre, dog-sized predatory dinosaur were recently recovered on the island of Madagascar.

The discovery, funded in part by the National Science Foundation (NSF), was announced this week in the journal Nature by a team of researchers led by paleontologist Scott Sampson of the University of Utah. Matthew Carrano and Catherine Forster from the State University of New York at Stony Brook co-authored the paper.

These fossils, which date to the Late Cretaceous period (about 65-70 million years ago), represent a dinosaur new to science, dubbed Masiakasaurus knopfleri. Masiakasaurus was relatively small, as dinosaurs go, with a total body length of 1.6-2.0 meters, much of which consisted of its long neck and tail. The total mass of this small carnivore would have been approximately 35 kilograms (80 lbs.), roughly that of a German Shepherd dog.

"Scott Sampson and the NSF-supported team of U.S. scientists working in Madagascar continue to reveal startling new vertebrate fossils," says H. Richard Lane, geology and paleontology program director in NSF's division of earth sciences, which funded the research. "Masiakasaurus is one of several such recent discoveries by this prolific team, with, I'm sure, more to come."

Masiakasaurus is based on a number of isolated bones from several individuals. The great majority of these fossils were recovered from a single site. Included in the collection are parts of the jaws and about 40 percent of the remainder of the skeleton, with some bones being represented by multiple examples.

The most bizarre aspect of this theropod dinosaur is its extremely specialized teeth and jaws. The first tooth of the lower jaw is oriented almost horizontally, projecting forward instead of upward. Subsequent teeth angle increasingly upward until the sixth tooth; from this point backward, all the teeth point straight up. The teeth themse
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Contact: Cheryl Dybas
Cdybas@nsf.gov
703-292-8070
National Science Foundation
22-Jan-2001


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