A small dinosaur with a parrot beak, and teeth like a vampire was found in a South African rock in 1983 has left it 29 years to tell the world about his find because other projects sidetracked him. The two-foot dinosaur is the latest new dinosaur to be identified. The report was published on Wednesday online journal ZooKeys, Paul C. Sereno, a paleontologists from Chicago University. The Pegomastax africanus scampered around the earth 200 million years ago. A Pegomastax skeleton had been sitting in a drawer in Harvard for the past 50 years, Sereno, explained that he had only recently analyzed the chunk of red rock where the bones were embedded. The rock was unearthed during a dig in South Africa in the 1960s.
He described the strange anatomy as a member of the heterodontosaur family and gave the new species the name “Pegomastax Africanus,” or “thick jaw from Africa.” During the interview he also apologized for not getting around sooner.
When he first viewed the specimen at a Harvard laboratory, Dr. Sereno said, “My eyes popped, as it was clear this was a distinct species.”
The volcanic ash in which the skeleton was buried has preserved hundreds of bristles that spread from Pego’s neck to the tip of its tail.
“I’m embarrassed to say how many years ago that was — 1983,” he said. “But I was an enterprising graduate student then at the American Museum of Natural History. All the while since then, I wondered if anyone else might spot the creature hiding among the lab drawers.”
His close examination showed that behind the parrot-shaped beak were a pair of stabbing canines up front and a set of tall teeth tucked behind for slicing plants. These teeth in upper and lower jaws operated like self-sharpening scissors, Dr. Sereno, said, with shearing facets that slid past each other when the jaws closed. The parrot like skull, he noted, may have been adapted to plucking fruit.
Dr. Sereno, concluded, that the poky fangs tucked behind the beak – unusual in herbivores – were likely used for sparring and mating competitions. Sereno’s hypothesized that the fangs were used mainly for nipping, in the manner of today’s fanged deer. ®
Another possible characteristic of the new species, Dr. Sereno said, is that its body might have been covered in quills, something like those of a porcupine. If so, he pictured that in life Pegomastax would have scampered around in search of suitable plants, looking something like a “nimble two-legged porcupine.”
Despite the dinosaur’s small stature, it was very fast for a two-legged creature and used bursts of speed as its main defense against the many predators of the time.
He, also nicknamed a “vampire” dinosaur because of its sharp canine-like fangs, the Pegomastax apparently used to dig around for a variety of fruits and plants, as well as for defense.
Enthusiasts can now see the Pegomastax in great detail in a vivid 3D reconstruction.