Brought to you by Newscorp Australia

Meet ‘tiny bug slayer’, the ideal pet that would have fitted in the palm of your hand

AP, July 13, 2020 7:00PM Kids News

Print Article

This illustration provided by the American Museum of Natural History depicts a Kongonaphon kely, shown to scale with human hands. Picture: Frank Ippolito/American Museum of Natural History via AP media_cameraThis illustration provided by the American Museum of Natural History depicts a Kongonaphon kely, shown to scale with human hands. Picture: Frank Ippolito/American Museum of Natural History via AP


Reading level: green

A pre-dinosaur-era creature that would have made a great pet and fitted in the palm of your hand has been discovered.

Meet Kongonaphon kely, a pocket-sized dinosaur forerunner* that was smaller than a mobile phone.

The creature, which predated dinosaurs and flying pterosaurs, was less than 10cm tall, according to a study published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

“Some of these things would have been quite cute animals,” said study lead author Christian Kammerer, a palaeontology* researcher at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, US. Looking like a small dinosaur that could fit in your hand, Dr Kammerer mused* that it “would probably make a great pet.”

Of course, no humans were around when Kongonaphon was roaming the wild, jumping around with its strong hind legs and feeding on bugs with its peg-like teeth, Dr Kammerer said. The name means tiny bug slayer*.

Supplied  Kongonaphon kely. Picture: Alex Boersma media_cameraAn illustration of Kongonaphon kely looking at a beetle. Picture: Alex Boersma

Scientists figure the little creature was an adult because of growth rings in its bones, Dr Kammerer said.

The fossils, dug up in Madagascar, date from 237 million years ago. Madagascar is an island country 400km off the east coast of Africa.

Kongonaphon was a member of a group called Ornithodira that led to dinosaurs and pterosaurs.

Dinosaurs began to appear about 230 million years ago and early dinosaurs and pterosaurs were much smaller than the massive beasts that came later.

Handout photo issued by Dr Mark Witton from the University of Portsmouth of the giant, 10m span pterosaur alongside a record breaking 6m tall giraffe. Controversial claims that enormous prehistoric winged beasts could not fly have been refuted by the most comprehensive study to date which asserts that giant pterosaurs were skilled in flight. media_cameraAn illustration comparing a giant, 10m-wingspan pterosaur (one of many massive creatures that came much later than Kongonaphon kely) beside a human and a record-breaking, 6m-tall giraffe. Picture: Dr Mark Witton/University of Portsmouth


  • forerunner: thing that came before something else
  • palaeontology: science of fossilised animals and plants
  • mused: thought
  • slayer: hunter, killer


World’s smallest dinosaur found embedded in amber

Giant, meat-eating dinosaur roamed Australia

River ‘monster’ to topple T-rex as top dinosaur

Big Bobo meets mini-me


  1. How big was this creature?
  2. Why is it called “tiny bug slayer”?
  3. Why do the scientists think the fossils were from an adult?
  4. What and where is Madagascar?
  5. When did dinosaurs begin to appear?


1. Prehistoric pet
Imagine that this dinosaur is alive now and you were just given one as a pet.

Write a letter to a friend to tell them about your new pet. Use the information from the article to help you tell your friend the following information: What does it look like? What type of animal is it? Where does it come from? Have you given it a name? What do you feed it? How do you look after it? Where do you keep it?

Include a hand-drawn picture of your new pet.

Time: allow 30 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English, Science, The Arts – Visual Arts

2. Extension
The fossils of these pre-dinosaur creatures were discovered in Madagascar. Use a map of the world to locate where Madagascar is.

Even today Madagascar is home to many unique creatures. In fact, about 75 per cent of the animals found in Madagascar live nowhere else on Earth. Use the internet to research 5 animals that are native to Madagascar. Write a brief description and include a picture of each one.

Time: allow 40 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English, Science, Humanities and Social Sciences – Geography

An adjective is a describing word. They are often found describing a noun. To start with look at the words before the nouns.

Search for all the adjectives you can find in the article

Did you find any repeat adjectives or are they all different?

Extension: Pick three of your favourite adjectives from the text and put them in your own sentences to show other ways to use them.

Have you used any in your writing?

HAVE YOUR SAY: Would you choose Kongonaphon or a different sort of pet?
No one-word answers. Use full sentences to explain your thinking. No comments will be published until approved by editors.

Extra Reading in animals