Science

'It's alive!' Well, nearly: Frankenstein monster may be missing dinosaur link

'It's alive!' Well, nearly: Frankenstein monster may be missing dinosaur link”

It had many similarities not only with herbivore dinosaurs but also with carnivores. They say it lived about 150 million years ago, during the late Jurassic period.

Earlier this year, researchers at the University of Cambridge and the London Natural History Museum shook up the dinosaur family tree, which had stood nearly unchanged for over a century. The legs resembled the ones from a Brontosaurus, the hips from a Stegosaurus, and the arms and body from a Tyrannosaurus rex.

A dinosaur we've only known about for a couple of years could be the missing link between plant-eating dinosaurs and members of the theropod group, including carnivores like Tyrannosaurus Rex and Velociraptor.

To place the Chilesaurus, scientists analysed more than 450 different characteristics of early dinosaurs and compared them with the specimen. This shuffling of the dinosaur family tree has major implications for understanding the origins of Ornithischia, the "bird-hipped" group of dinosaurs that includes Stegosaurus, Triceratops and Iguanodon.

"Reconstructing the dinosaur family tree is no easy feat because the fossil record is far from flawless".

"Chilesaurus nearly looks like it was stitched together from different animals, which is why it baffled everybody", said Matthew Baron, one of the authors of a new paper classifying the dinosaur.

Bird-hipped dinosaurs have several common physical traits, the two most notable being an inverted, bird-like hip structure and a beak-like structure for eating.

The findings suggest that Chilesaurus fills a significant gap between two of the primary dinosaur groups, and reveal how the divide between them may have occurred.

The study was published August 15 in the journal Biology Letters. Based on the team's analysis, it looks like the gut of this dinosaur evolved before the jaw, for example. "It is a ideal half-and-half mix", he added. "Now in a new tree, everything fell into place", said the Baron.

"There was a split in the dinosaur family tree, and the two branches took different evolutionary directions", Baron added.

The research team thinks that some of the Chilesaurus chose or were forced to change their diet to a plant-based one.

And it means ornithopods and theropods are more closely related in the dinosaur family tree than previously thought.

Along with Mr. Baron, other scientists are supporting the research.

"Chilesaurus is one of the most puzzling and intriguing dinosaurs ever discovered", he said. He is certain this will soon make the world understands more of the Frankenstein dinosaur biology.

Likewise, as BBC News explained, ornithischians had always been viewed as a group of oddballs that were completely unrelated to other reptile of the era. Eventually, we'll arrive at a consensus.

For that to happen, the dinosaurs lineage appears to have split apart.

Dinosaurs came in a ridiculous variety of shapes and sizes, but just how they all fit together is still up for debate. In turn, this might have led to the appearance and evolution of larger plant-eaters.



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