Scientists find one-fingered dinosaur
Published 25/01/2011 | 05:00
A one-fingered dinosaur with a single large claw on each hand has been discovered in China.
Scientists believe Linhenykus monodactylus, which stood just 2ft tall and weighed about the same as a large parrot, may have used its dino-digits to dig into insect nests.
The biped creature belonged to the alvarezsauroids, a branch of the "theropod" family of carnivorous dinosaurs.
Theropods gave rise to modern birds and included famous names such as Tyrannosaurus rex and Velociraptor.
But researchers found Linhenykus had one striking feature not seen in its relatives, a single functional finger on each hand bearing a large claw.
Michael Pittman, from University College London, one of the scientists who describe the find yesterday in the journal 'Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences', said: "Non-avian theropods start with five fingers but evolved to have only three fingers in later forms.
"Tyrannosaurs were unusual in having just two fingers, but the one-fingered Linhenykus shows how extensive and complex theropod hand modifications really were."
A partial skeleton of Linhenykus dating back 75-84 million years was found in a fossil-rich rock formation near the city of Linhe, Inner Mongolia.