Oct. 3, 2012 -- This "punk-sized" dinosaur with porcupine-like bristles and stabbing self-sharpening fangs was recently identified.
Remains of Pegomastax africanus, illustrated in this model, were chipped out of 200-million-year-old red rock from South Africa.
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The 2-foot-long dino weighed less than a modern housecat in the flesh. But Paul Sereno, a paleontologist and professor at the University of Chicago, believes it was a plucky survivor.
"I think the bristles would have made it look at least a little bigger than it was -- perhaps they could poke out more strongly when excited," he said.
Pegomastax had 1-inch-long jaws that supported a short, parrot-shaped beak up front, a pair of stabbing canine teeth, and tall teeth tucked behind.
The teeth in the upper and lower jaws operated like self-sharpening scissors, with shearing wear facets that slid past one another when the jaw was closed.
Sereno believes the less than 3-inch-long skull was probably adapted to plucking fruit, and not to ripping flesh out of animal prey. This is supported by the way the teeth met during a bite, their shape, and wear pattern.
With its bristles, Pegomastax looked something like a "nimble two-legged porcupine," according to Sereno.
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"These plant-eaters are among the very oldest we know from the bird-hipped side of the dinosaur tree," explained Sereno, who authored a study about the remains in the journal, ZooKeys. "They started out small, and some of them got a bit smaller to be among the smallest dinosaurs we know."
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