New dinosaur found at brickworks in east Sussex

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The Independent Online

A new species of dinosaur found at a brickworks is believed to be the world's smallest.

The fossil of the bird-like dinosaur, which measures between 13 and 16 inches in length, was found in one of the pits at the Ashdown Brickworks near Bexhill, East Sussex.

The tiny dinosaur has been identified by Darren Naish and Steve Sweetman, palaeontologists at the University of Portsmouth, as coming from the Mesozoic era, which began approximately 250 million years ago.

The new specimen, which was carnivorous or omnivorous, has been identified from only a single neck vertebra measuring just 2.8 inches long.

This contains enough information to show that the dinosaur, nicknamed the Ashdown maniraptoran, was part of a group that included all of the two-legged, meat-eating dinosaurs called theropods.

The palaeontologists found the new dinosaur has clear similarities with maniraptorans, the group of theropods that includes birds and other bird-like, feathered theropods, making it likely to belong to this group.

Dr Sweetman said: "This is such an exciting find as it represents the smallest dinosaur we have yet discovered in the European fossil record."

The pair were able to confirm that the remains are definitely from a fully-grown dinosaur because the main body of the neck vertebra is fully fused to the arch-shaped part of the vertebra that sits on top, meaning that it was skeletally mature.

The tiny dinosaur, described in the latest issue of Cretaceous Research, was discovered by local fossil collector Dave Brockhurst, who works at the brickworks.

The dinosaur-bearing rocks at the site have yielded many other fossils, including the remains of salamanders, frogs, lizards, turtles, crocodiles, and various kinds of large dinosaur.