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Dinosaur With Fangs Was Light and Vegetarian [Video]

Oct 04, 2012 08:30 AM EDT
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Meet the biggest dinosaur ever to walk the Earth

A new plant-eating dinosaur with beak like a parrot and tiny fangs has been discovered by scientists.

The fossil remains of the herbivore dinosaur named as Pegomastax africanus which means "thick jaw from Africa" were first collected from a slab of red rock in southern Africa in the 1960s and were preserved along with a collection of fossils at Harvard University.

Professor Paul Sereno at the University of Chicago identified the fossils and found they were a new species of dinosaurs dating back to some 200 million years ago.

Unlike popularly known Tyrannosaurus rex and Sauropods, this Pegomastax africanus were small in size and had tiny jaws of 1-inch in length. They were less than 2 feet long and weighed less than a house cat.

Besides these features, the punk-sized dinosaur species sported a pair of stabbing canine teeth and tall teeth in their jaws for cutting plants. The tall teeth are believed to have worked "like self- sharpening scissors with shearing wear facets that slid past one another when the jaws closed." The stabbing canine teeth were probably used for defending themselves.

The skull of the Pegomastax africanus was just 3 inches long that may have been used to pluck fruits. They had bizarre porcupine bristles covering their body. This is not the first time such bristles have been identified in dinosaurs. A similar-sized heterodontosaur, known as Tianyulong, that was recently discovered in China also had bristles.

"I think the bristles would have made it look at least a little bigger than it was -- perhaps they could poke out more strongly when excited," Paul Sereno, professor at the University of Chicago and author of the study, told Discovery News.

"The main defense would be speed of escape," added Sereno, "These were very long-legged fast critters. (They could inflict) a nipping bite if cornered, using the fangs much like a peccary or fanged deer."

Pegomastax africanus belonging to the family tree of the "bird-hipped" dinosaurs was one of the most advanced plant eaters during their time.

The findings of the study are published in the online journal ZooKeys.

Check below the video making of Heterodontosaurus flesh model:

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