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New Dinosaur Species Unearthed in Madagascar Helps Fill Fossil Record Gap

Update Date: Apr 20, 2013 05:55 PM EDT

Madagascar’s fossil record gap has become narrower with a recent discovery of fossils belonging to a new species of dinosaur that lived in the island about 90 million years ago.

The dinosaur, which was baptized as Dahalokely Tokana (“Lonely small bandit” in Malagasy), fills a 95 million years gap that had haunted the island’s fossil records to this day.

The first new species of dinosaur unearthed on the Indian Ocean island in about a decade, Tokana, a carnivorous dinosaur, has been welcomed by paleontologists with great excitement of dinosaur.

Before Tokana, no dinosaur fossils had ever been found in Madagascar from between 165 and 70 million years ago. This closes this gap by 20 million years, making the finding extremely significant, according to paleontologists.

The new dinosaur species was categorized as part of a group of carnivorous dinosaurs called abelisauroids, endemic to the southern continents. Similar in appearance to Tyrannosaurus rex, except much smaller. According to paleontologists, Tokana grew only to between about 9 and 14 feet long — about the size of a small cow — and it walked on large hind legs and had two small forearms.

The discovered was made in the northern side of Madagascar as part of an expedition that worked between 2007 and 2010. The findings included bones from the vertebrae and ribs.

Scientists were able to identify the new species thanks to the unique features in the bones.

Tokana walked on earth at a time when Madagascar was still geographically connected to India. At that time both land masses sat in the middle of the Indian Ocean, isolated from other continents.

Scientists believe that India and Madagascar separated from each other about 88 million years ago, shortly after Tokana roamed Earth. This means that Tokana could be an ancestor to creatures that later lived in both Madagascar and India.

And the bones, paleontologists say, reflect this mixture.

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