Research is being published in today’s ZooKeys regarding a new species of dinosaur discovered by Paul C. Sereno of the University of Chicago. Called Pegomastax africanus (“thick jaw from Africa”), it’s one of the smallest dinosaurs we’ve ever found. This little nightmare fuel was less than two feet long from its tail to its self-sharpening fangs. Did we mention it has self-sharpening fangs? Prepare to scream . . . commence screaming.
Canine teeth like this are rare on these small, likely-herbivore dinosaurs which were some of the first dinosaurs to develop
nearly six thousand over 200 million years ago. It’s one of the heterodontosaurs, or “different toothed reptiles”. The fangs may have been used to eat small amounts of meat (such as your ankles) or even insects, but Dr. Serano has his own ideas.
Dr. Sereno concluded that the creature’s fangs, unusual for a herbivore, were probably “for nipping and defending themselves, not for eating meat.” [...] 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.” [NYTimes]
A nimble, two-legged porcupine with fangs. Fantastic. Thanks, nature. We needed that.
Dr. Serano actually found the fossil of the Pegomastax africanus in 1983, but didn’t closely study the specimen until recently, probably because it took that long not to crap one’s pants when looking directly at it. The specimen was fossilized in a slab of red rock in South Africa. So keep that in mind as a place to avoid if you ever take a time machine to 200 million years into the past.
Check out some pictures of this little nightmare creature below. The pre-photoshop versions of these pictures came from the NYTimes. We took just a few liberties with them.