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Oct 03 2012

That’s one weird lil dino

 

Scientists in South Africa and Chicago have shed new light on a bizarre looking dino. Pegomastax sounds like the platypus of dinosaurs: a seeming jumble of characteristics from several clades:

NYT– In his new study, Dr. Sereno concluded that the creature’s fangs, unusual for a herbivore, were probably “for nipping and defending themselves, not for eating meat.” Other aspects about the new species and other heterodontosaurs, including their chewing mechanism, are evolutionary surprises, he said, and “their anatomy is key to understanding the early evolution of this great group of plant eaters.”

Another possible characteristic of the new species, Dr. Sereno said, is that its body might have been covered in quills, something like that of a porcupine. If so, he pictured that in life Pegomastax would have scampered around in search of suitable plants, looking something like a “nimble two-legged porcupine.”

5 comments

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  1. 1
    Worldtraveller

    Whoah, coolness. I wonder what evidence they have that it was covered in spines?

    Off to get one of my paleo friends to ‘splain this to me.

  2. 2
    busterggi

    Sure feathers are cool-looking in dinosaurs but just think how stupid it would look if Spiderman’s enemy the Lizard looked like that.

  3. 3
    Ben P

    I know that relatively small skeletal differences can have big evolutionary implications, but my gut reaction was that the fangs on the skull don’t really seem all that remarkable. Granted, Porcupines are mammals and specifically rodents, but for something that might have filled a similar niche, the Porcupine has comparatively bigger teeth.

    http://www.skullsunlimited.com/userfiles/image/variants_large_2947.jpg

  4. 4
    Noadi

    @Ben P – What porcupines have aren’t fangs, they are teeth that work like a nipper tool. The front two teeth on the top and bottom work together as a single cutting edge. This lets rodents gnaw through tough materials. This dino may have long canines but they wouldn’t function anything like a porcupine, or other rodent’s. They don’t appear to be well suited for eating plants.

    One other possibility that I’m surprised Serano didn’t propose is that since specimens of this species are rare (I think this is the only one found so far) we don’t know if it is possibly a sex specific trait. Perhaps males displayed or fought with those teeth for females? Sexual selection leads to some strange adaptions sometimes.

  5. 5
    coragyps

    I think that he used those fangs to subdue the viscious and wily Jurassic Carrot. The two of them were probably locked in mortal combat when Noah loaded the Ark. :-)

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