Saturday, October 6, 2012


This small, but rather ferocious-looking beast is the recent reconstruction (watch time-lapse here, graphics here) of a 200-million-year-old heterodontosaur fossil actually discovered back in the 1960s. Pegomastax africanus lived along forested rivers in southern Africa when it was still part of Pangaea. In reading about this newly described dinosaur, I was struck by the number of comparisons made about it:
  • like a housecat because it was small - only 2' (.6 m) tall - and probably weighed about the same
  • like a parrot because of its blunt beak and the shape of its skull
  • like a strange little bird because it would have scampered around the feet of larger dinosaurs
  • like a peccary or fanged deer because its prominent teeth belie the fact that it was in fact a vegetarian that used them to forage, defend itself, and compete for mates rather than hunt
  • like a scissor-sharpener because the teeth in the upper and lower jaws had shearing facets that slid past each other when the jaws closed
P. africanus was named and described by University of Chicago paleontologist Paul Sereno, who offers the best simile of all. Because it may have been covered with bristles or quills, he likens it to a  “nimble 2-legged porcupine.”
Toothy dinosaurs:

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