Tyrannosaurus rex (T-rex) was a notorious carnivore that could tear off any other animal with a single bite. But a 7-year old boy has discovered a close cousin of T-rex that was, surprisingly, vegetarian. Discovered in Chile, it has been named Chilesaurus diegosuarezia after 7-year old Diego Suarez, who first recovered the fossils at the Toqui Formation.
T-rex cousin lived about 145 million years ago
According to a study published in the journal Nature, this cousin of T-rex roamed Chilean Patagonia about 145 million years ago during the late Jurassic period. Chilesaurus diegosuarezi was nicknamed ‘The Platypus’ due to its bizarre anatomy that looked like a mixture of features associated with many other species. Its hands with two fingers made it resemble meat-eating T-rex, but Chilesaurus had a duck bill like a platypus. Its skull was proportionally small to its body.
Fernando Novas of the Bernardino Rivadavia Natural Sciences Museum in Buenos Aires told Discovery News that Chilesaurus likely fed on podocarps, ferns, bennetitaleans, araucarians and other plants that were abundant at the end of the Jurassic era. Diego Suárez’s parents Rita de la Cruz and Manuel Suárez were co-authors of the study.
One of the most interesting dinosaur discoveries
When Diego Suárez found the fossils, his parents thought the bones belonged to multiple species. But, upon further excavations, they found four complete skeletons of Chilesaurus, confirming that all the bones with bizarre features belonged to a single species. Researchers said the dinosaur grew up to three meters long. It had leaf-shaped teeth that could have chewed the plant materials into a swallow-ready mass.
Researchers believe that the earliest theropods were carnivores, but some of them later evolved to become vegetarian. It might have happened due to ecological pressures and abundance of plants. Paul Barrett, president of The Palaeontographical Society, said Chilesaurus was one of the most interesting dinosaur discoveries in the past 20-30 years. It is an excellent example of how evolution works in deep time.