Scientists have announced the discovery of a new species of carnivorous dinosaur which lived 230 million years ago in what is today Argentina.
Eodromaeus, which means “dawn runner”, weighed only 10-15 pounds and reached a length of 1.3 meters (4 feet), but it packed a punch with saber-shaped upper teeth for grabbing prey. Scientists believe the species paved the way to the theropods like the ferocious Tyrannosaurus rex.
This reconstruction of Eodromaeus provides a look at the earliest stage in the evolution of the flesh-eating dinosaur lineage, called theropods, some 230 million years ago. “Dawn runner” features a scaled face for protection, saber-shaped upper teeth for snatching prey, draped neck skin for swallowing large prey and fringe of rudimentary, bristle-like feathers. (Copyright Mike Hettwer)
Pint-sized Eodromaeus (“dawn runner”) weighed only 10 to 15 pounds and measured about 4 feet in length from snout to tail tip. It lies very close to the ancestor of all meat-eating dinosaurs, including Tyrannosaurus. (Copyright Todd Marshall). Captions courtesy of the University of Chicago.
“It really is the earliest look we have at the long line of meat eaters that would ultimately culminate in Tyrannosaurus rex near the end of the dinosaur era,” said Paul Sereno, a University of Chicago paleontologist and co-author of the description, which is published in the journal Science, in a statement. “Who could foretell what evolution had in store for the descendants of this pint-sized, fleet-footed predator?”
The description is based off two Eodromaeus skeletons that were discovered side-by-side in the “Valley of the Moon”, an area famous for its dinosaur remains.
“Two generations of field work have generated the single best view we have of the birth of the dinosaurs,” said lead author, Ricardo Martinez of Argentina’s National University of San Juan, in a statement. “With a hike across the valley, you literally walk over the graveyard of the earliest dinosaurs to a time when they ultimately dominate.”
According to the researchers, Eodromaeus roamed the valley around the dawn of the age of dinosaurs.
“We’re looking at a snapshot of early dinosaur life,” said Sereno, who is also a National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence.
Citation: Ricardo N. Martinez, Paul C. Sereno, Oscar A. Alcober, Carina E. Colombi, Paul R. Renne, Isabel P. Montañez, Brian S. Currie, “A Basal Dinosaur from the Dawn of the Dinosaur Era in Southwestern Pangaea,” early online edition of Science, Jan. 14, 2011.
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