Dinosaurs Connections

The Search For the Missing Link

What fossil discovery indicated a link between birds and dromaeosaurs?

A fossil that may link birds and dromaeosaurids is named Rahona ostromi, or “Ostrom’s menace from the clouds,” in honor of American paleontologist John Ostrom (1928–2005). This fossil was found in 1995 off the eastern coast of Africa on the island of Madagascar. Dating of the fossil indicates that the animal lived about 65 to 70 million years ago, or the Late Cretaceous period. The fossil remains show a primitive bird about the size of a modern raven, with a 2-foot (0.6-meter) wingspan. The also has tiny bumps along the wing bones, indicating where the flight feathers were attached.

Many paleontologists are convinced that Rahona ostromi had feathers and could fly. The first toe of each foot points backwards, indicating the animal had a perching foot similar to that in modern birds. But it also retained many dinosaur-like features, the most interesting of which is on the second toe of each foot. Rahona ostromi had a sickle-shaped, killing claw on its second toes, a feature found in the subgroup of theropod dinosaurs known as dromaeosaurids.


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