CAA’s Articulate – Kongonaphon kely: A tiny dinosaur



Context:

  • A newly described species from Madagascar suggests that dinosaurs and pterosaurs (extinct flying reptiles) had extremely small ancestors, named Kongonaphon kely.


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About Kongonaphon kely

  • In the Malagasy language it means ‘tiny bug slayer‘ which indicates that it was insectivorous.
  • They had evolved into dinosaurs and pterosaurs which could reach enormous sizes.
  • During the time Kongonaphon was alive (around 237 million years ago), Madagascar was directly attached to India as part of the supercontinent Gondwana.
    • Triassic vertebrate fossils of similar age have been found in a band of rocks extending across Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Odisha.
    • A fossil is physical evidence of a prehistoric plant or animal. This may be their preserved remains or other traces, such as marks they made in the ground while they were alive.
  • Fossilised remains – including fossil bones and teeth – are known as body fossils. Fossilised shells are also body fossils.
  • Nearly all fossils we find – around 99% – are from marine animals such as shellfish and sharks.
  • Other fossilised signs of a plant or animal are called trace fossils. Dinosaur trace fossils include footprints, imprints of their skin or feathers,


Significance of discovery:

Explains the origins of flight in pterosaurs.

  • All flying animals seem to have evolved from very small ancestors.
  • A smaller, lighter body is more conducive to aerial locomotion such as gliding, which seems to be an important intermediary step in the origin of flight.
  • Modern birds are a kind of dinosaur because they share a common ancestor with non-avian dinosaurs.
  • Extensive studies on the origins of birds have shown there was also a miniaturisation event there, with the gigantic theropod dinosaurs becoming progressively smaller in size and the first birds (such as Archaeopteryx) being only around the size of a pigeon or a myna.
  • It is also helpful in discovering prehistoric ecosystems and the evolution of Triassic animals.


About Dinosaurs

  • Dinosaurs are a group of reptiles that have lived on Earth for about 245 million years.
  • In 1842, the English naturalist Sir Richard Owen coined the term Dinosauria, derived from the Greek deinos, meaning “fearfully great,” and sauros, meaning “lizard.”
  • Dinosaur fossils have been found on all seven continents.
  • The earliest known dinosaur appeared about 245 million years ago during the Late Triassic Period (250 to 210 million years ago).
  • Dinosaurs evolved into a very diverse group of animals with a vast array of physical features, including modern birds.
  • Not all dinosaurs lived during the same geological period. Stegosaurus, for example, lived during the Late Jurassic Period, about 150 million years ago. Tyrannosaurus rex lived during the Late Cretaceous Period, about 72 million years ago. Stegosaurus was extinct for 66 million years before Tyrannosaurus walked on Earth.
  • During the Mesozoic Era (a period of more than 180 million years that included the Triassic, Jurassic, and Cretaceous periods), a species of non-avian dinosaur evolved into a species of avian dinosaur. This avian dinosaur is the first bird and the forerunner of all birds.
  • Extinction: Every non-avian dinosaur went extinct 66 million years ago when mass extinction of non-avian dinosaurs and other species at the end of the Cretaceous Period happened. It is certain that a massive asteroid or comet struck Earth during this time, causing a dramatic shift in Earth’s climate.