In the world of dinosaurs, not everything was as it seems. The most advantageous appendages may have just been for show-and-tell, to ward off unassuming predators, and some of the most evolutionarily superb tricks may never be revealed in the fossils we find today. And with the endless wonder of discovering an entirely unique world, unlike our own, paleontologists, like children, keep learning in the hopes of one day adding their own discovery into the dialogue. The only difference is that one of these differences was recently discovered in a new species of dinosaur related to the Tyrannosaurus rex, but this discovery really was made by a child-seven-year-old Diego Suárez.
Found when Diego and his sister were in search of stones at the Toqui Formation in Aysén, Chile the 145-million-year-old dinosaur now known as Chilesaurus diegosuarezi may have looked a lot like its cousin the T. rex, but researchers have discovered that there was much more than meets the eye. Though the appearance of a Tyrannosaurus would be a great advantage in a time of predator-eat-predator interactions, researcher say that the Chilesaurus species may have lived life much more akin to a platypus-living amongst the giants as one of few vegetarians.
"Chilesaurus probably fed upon ferns, araucarians, bennetitaleans, and podocarps-all of which were plants that were abundant at the end of the Jurassic" lead author of the new study, Fernando Novas says.
In the new study published this week in the journal Nature, researchers with the Bernardino Rivadavia Natural Sciences Museum in Buenos Aires fondly nicknamed the dinosaur "The Platypus" because of its strange mismatched anatomy that was hard to decipher. But now, with its beaked mouth and leaf-shaped teeth in hand, researchers are certain that Chilesaurus diegosuarezi was indeed an herbivore, evolved towards an all-plant diet from the earlier theropods.
"Chilesaurus is a truly bizarre animal and ranks as one of the most interesting new dinosaur discoveries of the past 20-30 years" President of the Paleontographical Society, Paul Barrett says. "It has an exceptionally odd mixture of features, so much so that if you found these bones separately, rather than together, you would probably end up placing each bone in different dinosaur groups."
Though in spite of plants being far more abundant at the end of the Jurassic period, these evolved herbivore lineages of theropods eventually went extinct without descendants left to adapt to the carnivorous competition that soon followed.