Bizarre Cousin of T. Rex Was a Vegetarian

Apr 29, 2015

Credit: Gabriel Lío

By Laura Geggel

A relative of Tyrannosaurus rex didn’t share the infamous carnivore’s appetite for meat, a new study finds. Instead, the newly discovered 9.8-foot-long (3 meters) dinosaur munched on plants about 145 million years ago during the Late Jurassic period.

The new species is a member of the theropod group, which consists of mostly carnivorous dinosaurs and includes not only T. rex but also the fearsome Velociraptor. The newfound “bizarre herbivorous” creature looked like a mixture of a plant-grazing, long-necked sauropodomorph; an herbivorous beaked ornithischian; and a meat-eating theropod, the study researchers said.

“When I saw all the fragmented bones laying on the table, I thought all of them belonged to different dinosaur lineages,” said the study’s lead researcher, Fernando Novas, a researcher at the Bernardino Rivadavia Natural Sciences Museum in Buenos Aires, Argentina. “That dinosaur is spectacular and bizarre because it combines different features belonging to these three main groups of dinosaurs.”

Researchers uncovered the curious fossils in 2010. The observant 7-year-old son of two geologists spotted a few dinosaur vertebrae during an expedition with his family in Aysén, a region in southern Chile. The researchers named the new dinosaur Chilesaurus diegosuarezi, in honor of Chile and the boy, Diego Suárez.

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6 comments on “Bizarre Cousin of T. Rex Was a Vegetarian

  • 2
    Cairsley says:

    The text of the article is a reasonable lay description of the excitement and puzzlement of the discovery of fossils of a new and initially odd-seeming species of dinosaur. It is the headline, with the rather vague and misleading word ‘cousin’, that offends good standards of reporting, and this is probably attributable to a subeditor concerned more to attract readers than to report accurately. I for one am delighted to learn of yet another branch of distant relatives in our great family of life, and we have evolutionary biology to thank for this fine insight.

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  • This phenomena of related species being carnivores or herbivores in not so earth shattering as the sub editors have massaged this piece of media fodder into.

    Ambulocetus, was the common ancestor of today’s whales was a carnivore. They split into carnivores and herbivores in modern whales.

    p.s. This is a great transitional fossil to put before creationists. It’s exactly what they say doesn’t exist in the fossil record.

    pps. Ask people what the nearest living relative of the Hippopotamus is. Its the whale. DNA and physiology confirm this. Plays hell with the creationists.

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  • I see another fossil relative in China, from about 15 million years later has moved back the knowledge of bird ancestors:-

    Feathery fossils peg early birds to even earlier date

    Scientists in China have described a new species of early bird, from two fossils with intact plumage dating to 130 million years ago.

    Based on the age of the surrounding rocks, this is the earliest known member of the clade that produced today’s birds: Ornithuromorpha.

    It pushes back the branching-out of this evolutionary group by at least five million years.

    The little bird appears to have been a wader, capable of nimble flight.

    The discovery is reported in the journal Nature Communications.

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