Dahalokely (Malagasy for "small bandit"); pronounced DAH-hah-LOW-keh-lee
Woodlands of Madagascar
Mid-Late Cretaceous (90 million years ago)
Size and Weight:
About 12 feet long and 300-500 pounds
Moderate size; bipedal posture; distinctively shaped vertebrae
Like many regions of the earth, the Indian Ocean island of Madagascar (off the eastern coast of Africa) harbors a huge gap in its fossil record, stretching all the way from the late Jurassic to the late Cretaceous periods. The importance of Dahalokely (which was announced to the world in 2013) is that this meat-eating dinosaur lived 90 million years ago, shaving about 20 million years off the far end of Madagascar's almost 100-million-year fossil gap. (It's important to bear in mind that Madagascar wasn't always an island; a couple of million years after Dahalokely lived, this landmass split off from the Indian subcontinent, which itself had yet to collide with the underside of Eurasia.)
What does the provenance of Dahalokely, combined with the history of Madagascar, tell us about the distribution of theropod dinosaurs in during late Cretaceous period? Since Dahalokely has been tentatively classified as a modestly sized abelisaur--a breed of meat-eating predator ultimately descended from the South American Abelisaurus--this may be a hint that it was ancestral to Indian and Madagascan theropods of the later Cretaceous, like Masiakasaurus and Rajasaurus. However, given the scarcity of Dahalokely's fossil remains--all we have for now is the partial skeleton of a subadult specimen, lacking the skull--more evidence will be needed to conclusively establish this link.