Plant Eating Theropod discovered in Chile
The word ‘theropod’ was believed to be associated for decades with meat eating dinosaurs, like Tyrannosaurus, Velociraptor, Spinosaurus and many others that have yet to star in the Jurassic Park franchise. However, paleontologists have now confirmed a slew of theropods that were more on the vegetarian side. An unusual South American can be added to the list today. It was discovered by a seven-year-old child on February 4, 2004.
Young Diego Suarez was hiking around southern Chile with his geologist parents Manuel Suarez and Rita de la Cru when he stumbled upon a few bones on a hillside. He picked up those fossils and his parents were quick to recognize that the remains belonged to a rib and vertebra of a little dinosaur. Diego and his family targeted the site to explore for more finds.
The dinosaur has been named, Chilesaurus diegosuarezi, for Diego and the place it was found after more than a decade to its discovery.
Fernando Novas of the Museo Argentino de Ciencias Naturales and his co-authors reported the new theropod, which preferred plants to flesh, this week in Nature.
Chilesaurus walked on two legs and had three thick, short fingers but only two claws. The dinosaur’s blunt, rounded skull was set with short, leaf-shaped teeth.
It was not all of a sudden that carnivorous habits turned into herbivorous ones among dinosaurs. Omnivorous characteristics, if not fully herbivorous, were developed by species of the toothless, ostrich-like ornithomimids, the parrot-esque oviraptorosaurs and the tubby, long-necked therizinosaurs during the Cretaceous, which started about 145 million years ago.
“The discovery of Chilesarus not only challenges our conception of theropod evolution, but also about the ecological role it played”, said Novas.
Researchers have claimed that there were even older plant-munching theropods in existence.
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