Rahonavis (Greek for "cloud bird"); pronounced rah-hoe-NAY-viss
Woodlands of Madagascar
Late Cretaceous (75 million years ago)
Size and Weight:
About one foot long and one pound
Small size; feathers; single curved claw on each foot
Rahonavis is one of those creatures that triggers enduring feuds among paleontologists. When it was first discovered (an incomplete skeleton unearthed in Madagascar in 1995), researchers assumed it was a type of bird, but further study showed certain traits common to dromaeosaurs (better known to the general public as raptors). Like such undisputed raptors as Velociraptor and Deinonychus, Rahonavis had a single huge claw on each hind foot, as well as other raptor-like features.
What is the current thinking about Rahonavis? Most scientists agree that raptors counted among the early ancestors of birds, meaning that Rahonavis might be a "missing link" between these two families. The trouble is, it wouldn't be the only such missing link; dinosaurs may have made the evolutionary transition to flight multiple times, and only one of these lineages went on to spawn modern birds.