Tag Archives: quills

Tiny, beaked dinosaur fossil found in South Africa

Pegomastax africanus
Illustration by Todd Marshall

Earlier this month Paul Sereno and the University of Chicago announced that a new fossilized dinosaur, the Pegomastax africanus (a tiny, beaked dinosaur) had been discovered in a slab of rock found in South Africa.
Paul Sereno believes the Pegomastax would have looked like a cross between a chicken and a porcupine.

Recreation of the Pegomastax
Image Credit: Tyler Keiller

The quills are inferred from an earlier discovery in China of the Tianyulong dinosaur.  The Tianyulong was found buried in lake sediment and covered in volcanic ash.  This burial preserved the appearance of quills spread across the diminutive dinosaurs’ body.  Sereno’s Pegomastax has similar quills, which, when combined with the beak-like mouth and sharp, stabbing canines, produces a formidable looking dinosaur.  However, unlike the mighty T-rex, the Pegomastax is thought to have been about two feet tall.

The rock slab was found in the 1960s by the famous paleontologist Alfred Crompton.  Crompton identified the first of these miniature dinosaurs – the heterdontosaurus.  Yet, the creature in the slab remained undiscovered, first sitting in the Harvard Museum of Natural History and then later when it was returned to South Africa.

Sereno, a professor at the University of Chicago (and currently, an explorer in residence for National Geographic) published the discovery in the peer reviewed, online journal ZooKeys on October 3, 2012.

This dramatic video by paleontological reconstructionist, Tyler Keiller, illustrates how paleontologists recreated the appearance of the the Pegomastax.

For more information on the Pegomastax see the University of Chicago Newsletter or the original article in ZooKeys.