Pegomastax africanus dinosaur: Paul Sereno, University of Chicago, finds new dinosaur family member

(CNN) -- University of Chicago dinosaur hunter Paul Sereno says he's discovered a new member of the dinosaur family tree, a strong-jawed but tiny beast that would have looked something like a "nimble, two-legged porcupine."

Pegomastax africanus lived some 200 million years ago, according to accounts of the find reported by the university and ZooKeys, the online journal that published Sereno's article on the find.

While Sereno is the first to describe the species, it was originally excavated from a site in southern Africa in the 1960s. Sereno came across the fossil at Harvard University, according to the university and ZooKeys.

Similar kinds of animals likely lived worldwide, according to the article. A similar creature was recently discovered in China, according to ZooKeys and the university.

Pegomastax likely was covered with bristles similar to those sported by porcupines today, according to Sereno's description. It was less than two feet long and weighed less than a common housecat, according to Sereno.

It had a parrot-shaped beak and a pair of sharp canine teeth inside its three-inch skull, but Sereno believes pegomastax favored fruit over meat.

The sharp teeth were for self-defense and sparring over mates, according to Sereno.

"Pegomastax and kin were the most advanced plant-eaters of their day," the university and ZooKeys quoted Sereno as saying.

 
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