'Vampire' dinosaur finally revealed

Fri, Oct 5, 2012, 01:00

A US-based palaeontologist who discovered a new type of dinosaur in a piece of South African rock in 1983 has left it 29 years to tell the world about his find because he got sidetracked by other projects.

University of Chicago palaeontologist Paul Sereno, who published his findings in the online scientific journal ZooKeys on Wednesday, told reporters he came across the small-bodied herbivore as a graduate student while doing research in Harvard University, and intended to write about it immediately.

“I said, ‘Whoa!’ I realised it was a new species from the moment I set eyes on it,” Mr Sereno said, adding that he then got distracted “by other things” relating to a more ambitious research project.

“There was always a danger that someone would discover it and write about it, and I would read about it,” he reflected.

Named Pegomastax africanus, or “thick jaw from Africa”, by Mr Sereno, the strange-looking species was the weight of a small house cat and less than 30cm high. It lived between 100 million and 200 million years ago in South Africa. “I describe it as a bird, a vampire and a porcupine,” Mr Sereno said.

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