Image copyright Getty Images Image caption Dunera’s armoured leg features measure about 1.3 meters in length
Scientists have discovered the fossilised remains of a new dinosaur species which had unique exoskeletons and an extremely large canine-like tail.
The tiny, carnivorous Dunera tree-dwelling dinosaur measured about the size of a family pet.
Scientists discovered the fossils of the creature – which lived 155m years ago in what is now China – while excavating another dinosaur in 2002.
They said the beast would have been close to the size of a large, working dog.
Image copyright Dinotropolis Image caption Dunera was part of a large group of arboreal dinosaurs called floridians
Arboreal dinosaurs, which were thought to be unrelated to birds, lived in forests for hundreds of millions of years.
They included Dunera, a relative of today’s deer which lived in China, and an armoured dinosaur called Xinheida.
Researchers from the universities of Dundee and Exeter and from the Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, reported their findings in a paper published in the journal Scientific Reports.
They believe Dunera lived alongside other members of a large group of floridians called diplodocus dinosaurs, which are known for their most primitive vision and for having ankle-like limbs.
Dunera, however, had a strange leg. The wrist was fused, a hairless leg was fused into a long bones and its pelvis was bent out.
Its tail was unusually long for a plant-eater of its age – more than 5m long.
Image copyright Dinotropolis Image caption Dunera had unique exoskeletons and an extremely large canine-like tail
Dunera was a member of the Dunera genus, but was neither a close relative nor an isolated specimen. Rather, it was an integral part of the same group of dinosaurs as Xinheida, which remains as a possibility.
But the researchers agreed that Xinheida was closer to a dog than any other tyrannosaur dinosaur that had ever been discovered.
Says Professor David Williams from Dundee University: “Paleontologists have long known that Diplodocus the Dinosaur lived nearly 150 million years ago, on the same island as several other diplodocus species. Diplodocus, moreover, went extinct alongside the now endemic Chinese tree-dwelling dinos.
“Despite possessing many of the features that make up the complete record of paleontology’s shared DNA, Dunera and the other mosasaurids are simply not dinosaurs.
“Other dinosaur family trees are more complex and any new species would need to represent a tremendous evolutionary achievement for an animal to have persisted for so long in the wild.”