A dinosaur, newly discovered in Venezuela, appears to have thrived in the period following an extinction event 200 million years ago. This extinction event, brought on by a rapidly changing landscape, wiped half of the species on Earth.

This versatile dinosaur was related to triceratops and stegosaurus. Paleontologists believe this species was one of several varieties of animals which took dominion over vast areas of Earth in the wake of the wide spread extinction.

Laquintasaura venezuelae were likely social animals, living in herds earlier than most paleontologists believed such behavior developed in the animals. This could have allowed the two legged creatures to survive in areas that less social animals could not live.

The dinosaurs was discovered in a rock formation La Quinta, giving Laquintasaura venezuelae its moniker as the lizard of La Quinta. The species is the first named dinosaur discovered in the northern regions of South America.

The Triassic period began approximately 250 million years ago, after the Permian-Triassic extinction event, which left Earth largely devoid of life. It took 25 million years for the diversity of life on Earth to recover from this mass extinction. The mighty super-continent of Pangaea began to split apart in this era, as the first mammals started to walk the ancient landscape. The first dinosaurs evolved about 230 million years ago, but did not rise to prominence until 30 million years later, as a changing climate, brought on by the breakup of the giant landmass resulted in another large-scale extinction.

Fossil evidence suggests that L. venezuelae thrived just 500,000 years after this extensive global loss of life. The climate where the animal lived could have provided the animals with some advantages they needed to overcome rising humidity 200 million years ago.

"Some of the rocks in the general area of the discovery represent semiarid environments, while others indicate more swampy environments," Paul Barrett, a paleontologist from the Natural History Museum in London, said.

Dinosaurs are usually groups into two categories - the lizard-hipped saurischians, and the ornithischians, with bird-like hips. Laquintasaurus was an ornithischian, as were  Stegosaurus and Triceratops. Strangely, birds developed from saurischians, and not bird-hipped dinosaurs.

"'It's always exciting to discover a new dinosaur species but there are many surprising firsts with Laquintasaura. It is fascinating and unexpected to see they lived in herds, something we have little evidence of so far in dinosaurs from this time," Barrett said.

Discovery of the newly-recognized species and investigation of its physiology and behavior was profiled in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

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