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New dinosaur discovered in Venezuela

New dinosaur discovered in Venezuela

Posted by Dubraswka Aguilar on August 06, 2014

Venezuela has yielded the remains of the first new dinosaur species found in the north of South America: a creature estimated the size of a small dog, which mostly ate plants but likely also feasted on insects and other small pray.

Researchers from the Natural History Museum in London and the University of Zürich in Switzerland said they uncovered the 200-million-year-old fossils in the country's La Quinta Formation in northwestern Venezuela, an outcropping from the Cordillera de Mérida range, a northeastern extension of the Andes Mountains.

The species is named Laquintasaura venezuelae, after its location, in a paper published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

Bones from at least four Laquintasaura were found together at the new discovery site, with individuals ranging in age from three to approximately 12 years old, according to a museum news release.

Scientists believe the animals may have lived in small groups, the earliest known example of social behavior demonstrated by ornithischians, or dinosaurs that had hips shaped and oriented similarly to those of birds.

Laquintasaura walked on two hind-legs and measured about one meter, or three feet, in length.

"It's always exciting to discover a new dinosaur species, but there are many surprising firsts with Laquintasaura," Paul Barrett, lead author and palaeontologist at the Natural History Museum, said in an announcement. "Not only does it expand the distribution of early dinosaurs, its age makes it important for understanding their early evolution and behavior."

Laquintasaura, added Barrett, "lived very soon after the major extinction at the end of the Triassic Period, 201 million years ago, showing dinosaurs bounced back quickly after this event. It is fascinating and unexpected to see they lived in herds, something we have little evidence of so far in dinosaurs from this time ... we can fill some of the gaps in our understanding of when different groups of dinosaurs evolved."

Understanding of the early history of bird-hipped dinosaurs "is still very patchy, as so few of them have been found," explained research co-author and palaeontologist Marcelo Sánchez-Villagra of the University of Zürich. "This early species plays a key role in our understanding of the evolution, not only of this group, but of dinosaurs in general."

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