dinosaur museum

October 2020 Newsletter

FROM THE EDUCATION DESK

I can smell FALL in the air, my favorite time of the year. Love the colors, looking at the leaves, feeling autumn in the air and listening to the sound of the leaves under my shoes as I walk. Brand new month and so very nice!

October 4th is International Ships -in-Bottles Day, October 6th is National Noodle Day, October 16th is National Fossil Day and of course Halloween is October 31st! The first full Moon of fall will appear on October 1st , and on October 31st the second full moon appears. This will be a rare Blue Moon!! There will be a meteor shower in the late evening of October 9th and another one in the pre-dawn hours of October 21st-22nd. Did you know that the foliage color is triggered by the amount of daylight and not the weather? October’s flowers are the Cosmos and the Marigold and Opal is the lovely birthstone of October.

FYI: Tiny Ancient Relative of Dinosaurs and Pterosaurs Discovered

Its name was Kongonaphon kely, which means “tiny bug slayer” and it was about the size of a coffee cup. It lived on Madagascar approximately 237 million years ago during the Triassic period and stood about 4 in. tall. The team thinks it was likely bipedal with long and slender leg bones and measured about 16 in. long from nose to tail. By examining a section of the thigh bone, it was determined that they were dealing with the remains of an adult rather than a baby. It belonged to the ancient group Ornithodira which was the last common ancestor of all the dinosaurs and pterosaurs.

The bones of this animal were first found during field work in 1998 at a fossil site along with the remains of hundreds of other ancient specimens. It was formally named and described in 2020. The earliest members of the group may have gone through a profound miniaturization event near the base of the avian stem lineage, the team writes in their newest paper. Evidence to support this comes in the form of the teeth and the pitted abrasions on them, consistent with a diet of hard-shelled insects. The teeth were pointed peg-like, unserrated teeth. It’s also possible that the shift to this tiny body helped it and its archosaur peers unlock and develop other traits that would go on to become a mainstay of their descendants survival like the origins of flight in pterosaurs and the presence of “fuzz” on the skin of both pterosaurs and dinosaurs.

“Discovery of this tiny relative of dinosaurs and pterosaurs emphasizes the importance of Madagascar’s fossil record for improving knowledge of vertebrate history during times that are poorly known in other places,” said project co-leader Lavasoa Ranivoharimanana at the University of Antananarivo in Madagascar. Recent discoveries like Kongonaphon have given us a much better understanding of the early evolution of ornithodirans.
The “miniaturization” event indicates that the dinosaur and pterosaur lineages originated from extremely small ancestors yielding important implications.

Wear on the teeth suggests it ate insects which is associated with small body size. This may have helped early ornithodirans survive by occupying a niche different from their mostly meat-eating relatives. The team’s work also suggests that fuzzy skin coverings which ranged from simple filaments to feathers may have originated for temperature control. Heat retention in small bodies is difficult, and the mid-late Triassic was a time of climate extremes.
In the future the team hopes to investigate whether Kongonaphon was more closely related to pterosaurs or dinosaurs and to learn more about what may have caused the miniaturization event that gave rise to this 4in. tall predator.

Geri Lebold
Education Director

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