Scientists have discovered a new species of dinosaur in Venezuela. The discovery was made by workers at the University of Zurich and The Natural History museum in London.
The new dinosaur has been named Laquintasaura venezuelae. It was named "venezuelae" after the country of Venezuela, where it was discovered. Scientists believe that the dinosaur lived over 200 million years in the past, at the start of the Jurassic period, "a time when dinosaurs were just starting their ascent to global dominance," said Dr. Paul Barrett.
The dinosaur was very small, about 3 feet (one meter) long, and about 1 foot high, Dr. Paul Barrett said in an interview with the BBC. Barrett was the lead author of the study, and is a vertebrate paleontologist at the Natural History Museum in London. The two-legged dinosaur was about the size of a fox, and was related to Stegosaurus and Triceratops dinosaurs. It has teeth that suggest it was an omnivore.
"The teeth are very unusual, with a tall, narrow triangular outline, tips that are slightly curved backward, coarse serrations along the margins and thin ridges that extend up and along the crown," said Barrett. "This combination of features is unknown in any other dinosaur. Although the triangular shape and coarse serrations suggest that plants made up most of the diet, the tall outline is reminiscent of meat-eating teeth, as are the slightly curved tips, so it is possible that Laquintasaura took small prey such as large insects some of the time."
This is the first dinosaur from Venezuela, Barrett said. It is actually the first dinosaur discovered in a country in the north of South America. He said that the dinosaur dated back to just after a major extinction towards the end of the Triassic Period. This suggests that dinosaurs quickly recovered after this extinction, in which more than half of all dinosaur species on Earth were wiped out.
Barrett speculated that this finding meant there may be other species of dinosaurs in South America, and he told the BBC that Africa and many other parts of the world have been very unexplored for dinosaurs, and might bear other undiscovered species if explored.
"In many ways, this extinction was a major help to dinosaurs, as it killed off a number of other reptile groups that might have been competitors," Barrett said. "Laquintasaura is known only 500,000 years after the extinction, and shows that ornithischians were quick off the mark during this recovery period."