England

Sussex fossil collector finds 'smallest' dinosaur

  • 15 June 2011
  • From the section England
Artist's impression of a new species of dinosaur found in Sussex
Image caption An artist's impression was created to show what the dinosaur might have looked like

The fossil of what is thought to be one of the world's smallest dinosaurs has been found at a brickworks in Sussex.

Experts from the University of Portsmouth identified the creature after a local fossil collector found it at the Ashdown Brickworks near Bexhill.

Palaeontologist Dr Steve Sweetman said: "It represents the smallest dinosaur we have yet discovered in the European fossil record."

The bird-shaped fossil is between 13in (33cm) and 16in (40cm) in length.

'Bird-shaped'

The dinosaur was found by local fossil collector Dave Brockhurst who works at the brickworks.

Rocks at the site have also yielded other fossils including the remains of salamanders, frogs, lizards, turtles, crocodiles, and other large dinosaurs.

After Mr Brockhurst made the discovery, university researchers identified the specimen.

They said it had come from the Mesozoic era, which began about 250 million years ago.

Nicknamed the Ashdown maniraptoran, the dinosaur was carnivorous or omnivorous and was part of a group that included all the two-legged meat-eating dinosaurs called theropods.

Experts also said the new dinosaur had clear similarities with maniraptorans, a group of theropods including birds, making it likely to belong to this group.

They found the fossilised remains were from a fully-grown dinosaur because the main body of the neck vertebra was fully fused to the arch-shaped part of the vertebra that sits on top, meaning that it was skeletally mature.

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