According to a paper in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B., a previously unknown species of proto-dinosaur has been discovered. Laquintasaura venezuelae, named after the nation where it was discovered, was extanat more than 200 million years ago in the early Jurassic, relatively soon after the major dinosaur die-off at the end of the Triassic period.

The new dinosaur species is the ancestor of dinosaurs such as the three-horned Triceratops. It was a vaguely bird-like plant eater slightly larger than a modern turkey that lived in herds in areas of Venezuela and Brazil.

Details on the new dinosaur

The new fossils revealed that Laquintasaura walked on two hind legs, and averaged around three and a half feet long including its tail.

It was apparently largely a plant-eater, mainly ferns, but the article points out that the curved tips of some  teeth leave open the possibility, Laquintasaura may have also eaten insects or other small creatures.

Dinos bounced back quickly after Triassic die-off

The article highlight that the discovery of the skeletons of at least four Laquintasaura specimens in Venezuela made it clear that dinosaurs bounced back relatively quickly after the Triassic die off. Most of the fossil record discovered to date had indicated a slower recovery of dinosaur populations after the wipe out.

Statement on new dinosaur species from paleontologist

Paul Barrett, a palaeontologist at the Natural History Museum in London and one of the authors of the paper commented on the discovery in a statement.

“It is always exciting to discover a new dinosaur species but there are many surprising firsts with Laquintasaura,” Barrett said. “Not only does it expand the distribution of early dinosaurs, its age makes it important for understanding their early evolution and behaviour.”

“It is fascinating and unexpected to see they lived in herds, something we have little evidence of so far in dinosaurs from this time,” he continued. “The fact that it is from a completely new and early taxon means we can fill in some of the gaps in our understanding of when different groups of dinosaurs evolved.”