The Chilesaurus Diegosuarezi seems to be taken from a cartoon, given its size, image and, according to new studies, eating habits. Its uniqueness stems not only from the way it looks but also from the fact that it was not as hungry for meat as its carnivore counterpart – the tyrannosaurus rex was. In fact, this dinosaur had a vegetarian diet.
The new research study that appeared in the Journal Nature earlier this week demonstrates that regardless of its similarity to others from the theropod group, which comprises not only of T. rex but also of velociraptor and carnotaurs, this small dinosaur had a preference for plants.
The Chilesaurus, also named by palaeontologists the “platybus dinosaur” was also shown to have a mixture of features, such as arms like the therapods that ended in pointed fingers rather than claws, a small head , a long neck and very sharp teeth.
These characteristics have most probably derived from its lifestyle and dietary habits. If one were to describe it, they would have to say it is a combination of an otter, a beaver and a duck. It would not be longer than 3 meters (10 feet), which is actually larger most of the specimens found so far. It is evolutionary convergence that caused all these changes, according to scientists.
The first fossilized remains were found south of Chilean Patagonia, by Diego Suarez, who was only seven at the time and was on an expedition with his parents. The bones were at first thought to belong to already known species of dinosaurs. However, after careful examination, paleontologists realized this one was different. It was named after the little boy who discovered it in the Andes.
The discovery that the Chilesaurus was not a meat eater is extremely important because it changes the timeline for scientists who believed the vegetarian diet with dinosaurs occurred much later than thought. Moreover, it is now believed these dietary habits were prevalent independently among dinosaurs.
It was thought that the first vegetarian theropod was the Limusaurus, which was turkey-sized and lived about 150 million years ago.
What is more important than all these discoveries is for researchers to see how little they know about past creatures and how many gaps there are in the data they currently have regarding the distinct features within dinosaur groups. This will probably prompt researchers to handle the classification and identification of fragmentary bones much more carefully.
Image Source: Vocativ