The oldest known relative of Velociraptor has been unearthed in the United States, a report a team of paleontologists just released said. This bird ancestor in North America was named Hesperornithoides Miessler, and it is the smallest dinosaur discovered in the US.
The dinosaur was unearthed from a layer of almost 150-million-year-old rocks called the Morrison Formation, which spreads in the western US centered on Wyoming and Colorado. The description of Hesperornithoides Miessler hints that the first flying ancestor of birds developed among ground-living dinosaurs, not among tree-living dinosaurs that could climb and slide.
Bird ancestor found in North America
When the team first unearthed the fossil, they believed it might be a pterosaur, which is a flying reptilian animal, that lived in the same age as dinosaurs. Eventually, paleontologists realized otherwise. The team has been named ‘Lori,’ after volunteer Lori Hockemeyer who took part in the 2001 dig.
It was later found that Hesperornithoides Miessler was a type of dinosaur also known as troodontid, estimated to live during the late Jurassic era. The species had a big sickle-shaped claw on each foot, and bird-like features even if it seemed evident that it was terrestrial.
The experts consider that Hesperornithoides have been covered with feathers, including on its forelimbs, which formed small wings. However, the extent of its limbs compared to its body implied that the animal was unable to fly. It most likely dwelt in wetland and lakeside areas and hunted small animals, such as lizards, mammals, and other dinosaurs.
Hesperornithoides Miessler has uncertain origins
Hesperornithoides Miessler is the region’s most complete small dinosaur fossil, having about 44 percent of its skeleton unearthed. This discovery helped the study authors to design a new detailed family tree of the dinosaurs related to birds.
Jingmai O’Connor, a paleontologist at the Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology in Beijing, says that it is quite evident flight developed in dinosaurs more than once, and this discovery supports that.
However, O’Connor cautions that the findings associated with this bird ancestor’s origins are purely speculative. The scientists have more to learn before they can comment on how and when flight and birds evolved, fellow researchers, agree.