Researchers have discovered the remains of a bizarre dinosaur related to the Tyrannosaurus rex. Known as the Chilesaurus diegosuarezi, the prehistoric creature was vastly different from its famous cousin: in addition to a having a number of curious features, the Chilesaurus was a vegetarian.
Instead of the sharp teeth, thick neck and large head of its carnivorous relatives, the Chilesaurus possessed flatter teeth for eating plants, a horny beak, slender neck and small head. The discovery is among the most remarkable dinosaur finds in the past two decades. Scientists noted that the animal was a theropod that evolved to become a vegetarian.
"Early theropod evolution is currently interpreted as the diversification of various carnivorous and cursorial taxa, whereas the acquisition of herbivorism, together with the secondary loss of cursorial adaptations, occurred much later among advanced coelurosaurian theropods," the research team explained in the abstract for the study.
"A new, bizarre herbivorous basal tetanuran from the Upper Jurassic of Chile challenges this conception," they added.
The researchers said the dinosaur had "a truly odd mix" of anatomical features, which, found scattered in different locations, could easily be thought to belong to various species of dinosaurs.
"Some of the bones look like they belong to an early theropod, others like they belong to a group of weird plant-eating theropods called therizinosauroids and yet others look like they belong to a completely different dinosaur group, the prosauropods," said Paul Barrett, from the Natural History Museum in London.
The Chilesaurus is in good company among a number of other weird dinosaurs species. The Ouranosaurus, for instance, had arms that were too short to make it a four-legged — but it also had trouble standing on two legs, thanks to a useless wind sail on its back.
The Concavenator is another strange dinosaur: it had a triangular hump on its back, which could have supported an ornate structure of bone and skin with no purpose — or it could have just been nothing more than a strange triangular hump.
The Rhinorex – also known as the "nose king" – sported a big and prominent fleshy nose that it may have used for loud blasts and blares to signal to other members of the species and attract potential mates.
The Chilesaurus diegosuarezi was named after Diego Suarez, the 7-year-old son of Chilean geologists Manuel Suarez and Rita de la Cruz. Diego discovered the first of the dinosaurs bones while playing on Black Hill near General Carrera Lake in southern Chile, as his parents were studying rocks.
This study was published in the journal Nature.
Photo: Mr Hicks46 | Flickr