The species, which the researchers named “Jakapil kaniukura”, lived around 97 to 94 million years ago, during the Late Cretaceous. He belonged to the Thyreophora group – the “armored dinosaurs” — four-legged herbivorous animals which, as their common name suggests, are characterized by the presence of bullet-proof vests aligned all along their body. The fossil specimen was unearthed near the village of Cerro Policía, in the Argentine province of Rio Negro.
Paleontologist Dr. Facundo Riguetti of Maimónides University in Buenos Aires led the study.
He said: “Jakapil is the first such basal thyreophore found in South America.
“Until recent years, finds of thyreophores were rare in the southern hemisphere.”
The former members of the group, Dr. Riguetti explained, lived mainly in North America, Europe, Asia and probably Africa.
The type specimen recovered by Dr. Riguetti and his colleagues appears to be a sub-adult – not a young individual, nor an adult adult either.
The researchers were able to determine this, they explained, by analyzing the composition of the bones of the small dinosaur under a microscope.
The bone tissue, according to their analysis, showed signs of decreased growth rate, a phenomenon that is not seen in juveniles, Dr. Riguetti said.
In life, the young specimen of J. kaniukura would have weighed about as much as an average domestic cat, between eight and 15 pounds.
“The researchers concluded: Further work will help bridge the important gap between early thyreophores and Cretaceous remains from South America.
“Recent research is reflected in an increase in the fossil record of thyreophores from South America, with all its implications for the evolution of thyreophores.
“The discovery of Jakapil not only supports the presence of a new Gondwanan lineage of early thyreophore dinosaurs that persisted in Gondwana for a long time, but also sheds light on the importance of the Gondwanan fossil record in studying the origin and of the evolution of dinosaurs and other clades.
The full results of the study have been published in the journal Scientific reports.
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