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Back in 2015, scientists first found and described the fossils of a bizarre species of dinosaur, which they named the Chilesaurus. This was unearthed in Southern Chile and is considered to have lived some 150 million years ago, in the Late Jurassic Period.
Still, researchers have been having a hard time classifying this species because of its strange characteristics. Its anatomical features would link it to various and different groups of dinosaurs.
Now, a team of scientists claims that the Chilesaurus is the “missing link” between herbivorous dinosaurs and the theropods, a dino group which includes the Tyrannosaurs Rex.
Bizarre Chilesaurus Deemed to be an Ornithischia?
Matthew Baron from the Cambridge Department of Earth Sciences and his Natural History Museum colleagues are behind the new study. They used an extensive database to analyze and review over 450 anatomical features of early dinosaurs. Through this, they claim to have been able to find a place on the dinosaur family tree for this unusual species.
“Chilesaurus has long baffled scientists because it looks like it has been stitched together from different animals, it’s a sort of Frankenstein dinosaur that just didn’t seem to fit in the family tree of dinosaurs,” states Baron.
Baron and his team suggest that the bizarre Chilesaurus might be a very early member of the Ornithischia, a “bird-hipped” group.
Ornithischia dinosaurs have bird-like, inverted hips and a beak-like structure used for eating. Research points out that the inverted hips allowed a more complex and bigger digestive system. In turn, this might have led to the appearance and evolution of larger plant-eaters.
The Chilesaurus present the inverted hips but not the beak-like structure. So the team considered that it might be the missing link between the Ornithischia and theropods, with which it had been previously associated.
The research team thinks that some of the Chilesaurus chose or were forced to change their diet to a plant-based one.
Study results are available in the journal Biology Letters. The same group of researchers also considers that science needs to rethink the evolutionary history of dinosaurs and redefine, rename, and rearrange its different groups.
Image Source: Wikimedia