Meet Chilesaurus Diegosuarezi. He is a theropod who roamed the Earth roughly 145 million years ago, which for all intents and purposes should have made him a carnivore like close relatives Tyrannosaurus Rex and Velociraptor. He wasn’t.
Paleontologists say the newly discovered dinosaur favored plants over meat and are fond of using the word “bizarre” or the expression “wonderful weirdo” when talking about the animal’s appearance.
The less scary and much more adorable T-Rex, Chilesaurus Diegosuarezi, looked like a mix of theropod, sauropodomorph and ornithischian, and grew to be 10-feet-long (3m), though most of the found specimens are about the size of a turkey.
It is also being referred to as the platypus equivalent of a dinosaur, an animal well known for its whimsical body (part duck, part beaver, mammal yet egg-laying). As Martin Ezcurra of Birmingham University said:
“Chilesaurus can be considered a ‘platypus’ dinosaur because different parts of its body resemble those of other dinosaur groups due to mosaic convergent evolution.”
And Pete Makovicky, a dinosaur specialist at The Field Museum in Chicago, describes him as “T-Rex that’s been shrunk but not shrunk equally”.
The animal had short arms and walked on its hind legs like a Tyrannosaurus Rex, an ilium (upper, large part of the pelvic bone) that looks like that of a theropod and 2 blunt fingers on their hand like Velociraptors; it had a long neck, small skull, leaf shaped teeth and clunky feet, all reminiscent of a sauropodomorph; it had a pubic bone that looks like that of an ornithischian and a horned beak.
Lead Researcher Fernando Novas, a researcher at the Bernardino Rivadavia Natural Sciences Museum in Buenos Aires was completely baffled when he first saw the remains and barely believe they’re from the same creature:
“When I saw all the fragmented bones laying on the table, I thought all of them belonged to different dinosaur lineages. That dinosaur is spectacular and bizarre because it combines different features belonging to these three main groups of dinosaurs.”
Researches named the dinosaur after Chile and Diego Suárez, the 7-year-old Chilean boy who found the fossils back in 2010 while playing with his sister and looking for decorative stones during an expedition with his family in Aysén.
Since Diego brought the species to their attention, Chilean and Argentinian scientists have found the remains of more than a dozen Chilesaurus dinosaurs, 4 of them with complete skeletons.
Paleontologists are very excited about possible new discoveries in the evolutionary trajectory of dinosaurs and firmly believe that if they can find fossils belonging intermediate species between typical carnivorous theropods and the herbivorous Chilesaurus it could prove dinosaurs went through several stages of transformation before going completely into extinction.
Fernando Novas of the Museo Argentino de Ciencias Naturales explains that:
“The discovery of Chilesarus not only challenges our conception of theropod evolution, but also about the ecological role it played.”
And Lindsay Zanno of the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences wisely adds that:
“If Chilesaurus’s proposed place in the theropod family tree holds up to additional scrutiny, then we have at least three and up to seven instances of theropods adapting to some form of a plant-based diet, one of which may be linked to the origin of the only surviving group of theropod dinosaurs, birds. If given new opportunities to succeed, life will find a way.”
Image Source: nbcnews.com