New Dinosaur Alert: Chilesaurus, T-Rex's Vegetarian Cousin
I think I might have a new favorite dinosaur.
Eleven years ago, seven-year-old Diego Suarez and his
nerd geologist parents were on a hike in Chile recently when he picked up some bones along the way. His parents recognized the bones to be the rib and vertebra of a dinosaur and the whole family began digging for more.
After a decade of research, a team of paleontologists from the Museo Argentino de Ciencias Naturales have published a paper in Nature announcing the discovery of Chilesaurus diegosuarezi, a new Jurassic theropod named for Diego and the original site. I just think it is a shame the paper couldn’t have been published sooner; Diego could have had a wicked amount of street cred in the fourth grade for having a freaking dinosaur named after him.
Chilesaurus walked on two legs with three digits each, two clawed and one without. A rounded head, short, elongated teeth, and a backward-facing pubic bone- (more similar to a Stegosaurus or Triceratops), indicate the strict vegetarian diet. With a thin neck and thick limbs, this new dino looks a bit like a bipedal Brontosaurus, though it only measured about 3.2 meters from tip to tail.
This discovery is noteworthy because Jurassic theropods, such as Tyrannosaurus, and Velociraptor, were known to be only carnivorous for many years. In the last few decades however, several fossils have been discovered to be plant-eaters, but C. diegosuarezi is the earliest known in the evolutionary record. It is rare for carnivores to evolve into herbivores, but it does happen: the most well-known example being the panda bear who evolved from the same ancestor as the grizzly and polar bears.
So to recap, we have a teeny, vegetarian T-rex that looks kind of like a bird but is basically the panda bear of dinosaurs. Forget action figures, this one needs to be made into a plush toy immediately.
ILLUSTRATION BY GABRIEL LÍO