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Single-fingered dinosaur surprises scientists

An artist's rendering of the Linhenykus monodactylus.
An artist's rendering of the Linhenykus monodactylus. (Julius Csotonyi)
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Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Would your parents ever let you keep a dinosaur as a pet, especially one related to the fierce Tyrannosaurus rex?

What if you told your folks that it could keep pests such as ants and termites out of the house?

Scientists in China have discovered the bones of a dinosaur that kids who promised to clean their room and make honor roll might have been able to bring home. The species was as small as eight inches tall and weighed less than a pound.

The most fascinating discovery concerning Linhenykus monodactylus is that unlike the T. rex, it had one finger instead of three.

Scientists expected that as dinosaurs used their middle finger for digging, it would have gotten bigger, leading to the eventual disappearance of the two side digits. However, this dinosaur's single finger was smaller than the middle digit of three-fingered species. "We don't see this very often in dinosaur evolution," said researcher Xu Xing.

The big problem with the dinosaur-as-a-pet notion? Linhenykus monodactylus died out about 80 million years ago.

© 2011 The Washington Post Company

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