New Dinosaur Species Is Oldest Of Its Type Ever Found In Southeast Asia

Minimocursor phunoiensis is the oldest neornithischian dinosaur ever found in this part of the world, as well as one of the best-preserved.


Maddy Chapman


Maddy Chapman

Copy Editor and Staff Writer

Maddy is a Copy Editor and Staff Writer at IFLScience, with a degree in biochemistry from the University of York.

Copy Editor and Staff Writer

Minimocursor phunoiensis

A reconstruction of Minimocursor phunoiensis, a plant-eating dinosaur roughly the size of a lion. 

Image credit: Manitkoon et al., Diversity, 2023 (CC BY 4.0)

A new species of dinosaur has been discovered in Thailand, where it once roamed during the Late Jurassic some 145 million to 163 million years ago. Minimocursor phunoiensis, as it has now been named, was identified thanks to a remarkably well-preserved skeleton unearthed in the Phu Kradung Formation at the Phu Noi locality in Northern Thailand.

“The Phu Noi locality contains a wealth of specimens and has yielded an exceptionally articulated skeleton, which represents one of the best-preserved dinosaurs ever found in Southeast Asia,” the authors of a study on the finding write.


“This is the earliest record of neornithischians in Southeast Asia, and the first dinosaur taxon named from the Phu Kradung Formation of Thailand,” they add.

Neornithischia is a diverse clade of mainly herbivorous dinosaurs, which counts ornithopods, marginocephalians, and various small bipedal dinosaurs among its members.

The latest addition, M. phunoiensis, was first discovered in 2012 and has been analyzed in detail in the years since, revealing a number of unique characteristics. These include a jugal boss – bony lump on the jaw – and a protruding ridge on the pelvis. 

The researchers believe that, as adults, these dinosaurs could have grown up to 2 meters (6.6 feet) long, based on a 26-centimeter (10-inch) femur that was found. This would make them around the same length as a lion or a llama


Their relatively small size, coupled with the fact that their legs appear to be adapted for fast running, has earned them the name Minimocursor, which translates as “smallest runner” in Latin.

Analysis of M. phunoiensis’ teeth suggests it ate only plants, according to New Scientist, who spoke to first author Sita Manitkoon. At least 10 specimens were found at the site at Phu Noi, leading Manitkoon to believe it may have been a common, widespread animal.

“The discovery of this dinosaur provides new information about the biodiversity, biogeography, and early evolutionary history of neornithischians during the Late Jurassic–Early Cretaceous time interval,” the researchers write.

“Many of the remaining bones are still under preparation, including another skull. These unpublished specimens may provide a better understanding of the biology of Minimocursor phunoiensis […] in the future.”


The study is published in Diversity.

[H/T: New Scientist]


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