No, this is not an idea for an imaginative five-year-old’s Halloween costume. Paleontologist Paul Sereno (discoverer of the Super-Croc, a 40-foot-long crocodile) published findings today in open-access journal Zookeys detailing the morphology of a strange domestic cat-sized dinosaur that skittered about the Earth approximately 200 million years ago.
The fossils of the creature, dubbed Pegomastax Africanus (“thick jaw of Africa”), were unearthed in the 1960s near the Southern African nation of Lesotho. Sereno took an interest in phylogentically analyzing the genus of small-bodied herbivorous dinosaurs known as the Heterodontosaurus and borrowed the collection of fossils containing this new little terror from Harvard University.
Video of Restructuring the Pegomastax Africanus:
Sereno found this bizarre little bipedal creature had grasping hands, a parrot-like beak, half-inch long fangs (compare to its 3 inch skull for maximum appreciation), and was probably covered in a coat of porcupine-reminiscent bristles. Despite the huge fangs, Sereno hypothesizes that the Pegomastax was a seed-and-fruit-eater as evidenced by its beak. The fangs were sheathed in the jaw when the beak was closed, further convincing Sereno that their primary use was for defense (rather than meat-tearing which sheathing would discourage). The bristles most likely had little to do with insulation, Sereno points out, and may have been a defense mechanism to make the creature seem larger to predators (they may have even been brightly colored!).
I think I have found my new spirit animal.