In Liaoning, China, a team of paleontologists recently unearthed a fossilized creature that had never been seen before — a small flying dinosaur with opposable thumbs.
Scientists are calling the newly discovered specimen the “Monkeydactyl,” because of its unique primate-like trait.
According to CBS News, the true name for the dinosaur is Kunpengopterus antipollicatus. The creature was given this name because “antipollicatus” translates to “opposite thumbed” in ancient Greek.
A report on the Monkeydactyl was published in the journal Current Biology on Monday by a multinational team of researchers. The creature is believed to have lived in forest ecosystems some 160 million years ago, the reports states, adding that the creature was quite small, with a wingspan of approximately 33 inches (about the same length as a common American crow’s wingspan).
Say hi to 'Monkeydactyl', a new arboreal darwinopteran pterosaur, with the oldest opposed thumb in fossil record! Excited to be in the team with @ZXYpaleo, @pegasaurus_42, @PalaeoStephan and amazing colleagues. Out in @CurrentBiology, https://t.co/HKNZin63wJ pic.twitter.com/cHx80TG2dd— Fion Ma (@FionMaWS) April 12, 2021
“This is an interesting discovery,” said Fion Waisum Ma, one of the co-authors of the study, in a statement (via CNET). “It provides the earliest evidence of a true opposed thumb, and it is from a pterosaur, which wasn’t known for having an opposed thumb.”
Science News reports that the Monkeydactyl likely used its thumbs to scale trees to hunt insects and other small prey that its nonclimbing competitors couldn’t reach.