Canadian researchers said on Monday they have discovered North America's smallest known dinosaur, a pint-sized predator half the size of a house cat and cousin to the ferocious Velociraptor, which roamed in what is now Alberta 75 million years ago.
Hesperonychus, whose name means “western claw”, prowled southeastern Alberta in Western Canada during the late cretaceous period, running on two legs, eating insects, small mammals, or whatever else it could find. Researchers said the dinosaur resembled its cousin Velociraptor, a hunter with a fierce reputation and a killer claw similar to that of Hesperonychus. “It was only about half the size of a Velociraptor,” said Nick Longrich, a researcher at the University of Calgary, and co-author of a paper on Hesperonychus with University of Alberta paleontologist Philip Currie. “Presumably Velociraptors could take down large animals but in this one the blade-like claw on the foot is not that big. My guess is that it was a small-game hunter, taking down mammals and birds and baby dinosaurs.”
Hesperonychus fossils have been collected since 1982 but paleontologists had assumed that because of their small size, they must have come from juvenile animals.