Mahakala (after a Buddhist deity); pronounced mah-ha-KAH-la
Plains of central Asia
Late Cretaceous (80 million years ago)
Size and Weight:
About 2 feet long and a few pounds
Small size; probably feathers
When it was discovered last decade in the Gobi Desert, Mahakala answered some important questions about the evolutionary relationships between late Cretaceous dinosaurs and birds. This bipedal, feathered carnivore was certainly a raptor, but an especially primitive (or "basal") member of the breed, which (judging by the small size of this genus) started to evolve in the feathered flight direction around 80 million years ago. Even still, Mahakala is just one of a huge assortment of late Cretaceous dino-birds that have been unearthed in central and eastern Asia over the last two decades.