The One Finger Salute

on Tuesday, February 15, 2011

No I am not talking about the ever popular hand gesture that is so well known during rush hour traffic, I am talking bout a brand new species of dinosaur that only had one functioning digit. It may seem a little silly to only have a single finger, but this little guy made it work. It seems that this parrot sized dino used this specialized finger to dig in termite nests for its unsuspecting prey.

Linhenykus monodactylus was recently discovered in northeastern China and is a member of the theropod dinosaurs. The theropods include some of the big carnivores like the T-Rex and Raptor species. Its bigger evolutionary cousins have the easily recognizable three toed foot that we see in fossils all over the mass media. It appears that this foot also used to be found in the ancestors of Linhenykus way back in history.

Linhenykus is a part of a distinct family of dinosaurs called the alvarezsauroids. These dinos are known for their long legged appearance and predominant main digit. While most of the other alvarezsauroids have two nonfunctional nubs where their former digits used to be, Linhenykus does not. It seems unusual that they would have lost these vestigial digits because their main digit was not more specialized at scrounging up grub. It would appear that these little guys wouldn't have gained any benefits from losing those extra fingers. It seems that Linhenykus is a keystone species in shedding light over the complex evolution of hands in this family. Before this species was found it was always assumed that hand evolution followed a linear pathway (meaning that if given all of the fossil record in tact, it would be easy to trace the degradation of the secondary digits). Scientists are now completely unsure of the actual pathway used for this family. While this little dino didn't help shed any light on the mysteries of the alvarezsauroids, it did add to the list of perplexities of this infamous digit.


Mason Posner said...

Interesting dinosaur. How do you see this story fitting the three act structure? Where is the tension in act 2, and how is it resolved in act 3?

Stephanie said...

I think you did a great job with "arouse and fulfill." As soon as I read your title I wanted to read it, and I think the first paragraph was really effective at hooking me. The picture was also effective because seeing that and the title made me curious what your post could be about.

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