New dog-sized dinosaur found in Chile had “really weird tail”

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Scientists have discovered a new species of dinosaur in Chile after finding fossils the size of a dog with an unusual tail, the Associated Press reported.

University of Chile paleontologist Alex Vargas said the tail was something he had never seen on an animal. He described it in a study in the journal Nature and said it is made up of seven pairs of “blades” that jut out sideways. Vargas said the tail was used as “an unusual weapon”.

It was difficult for researchers to determine what type of species it was. They thought he was eating plants and had a combination of traits from other species, but it was his tail that was pointing them in the right direction.

The researchers named the species Stegosaurus after its tail and back looked like a Stegosaurus.

The dinosaur has a muzzle similar to a bird and stretches about 6 feet long, but the height does not exceed a person’s thighs, Vargas said.

“Prehistoric animal books for kids need to be updated and put this weird tail in there… Sounds crazy,” he said.

The fossil of the new species was found in the southern region of Chile and is estimated to be around 72 to 75 million years old. Vargas said the dinosaur appears to be an adult from the fusion of the bones.

For more Associated Press reporting, see below.

The fossils found in Chile are from the strange dog-sized dinosaur species with a unique sharp-tailed weapon, scientists reported on December 1, 2021. Above is an illustration of a Stegouros provided by Mauricio Alvarez.
Mauricio Alvarez / AP Photo

The tail was likely intended for defense against large predators, which were also likely deactivated by armor-like bones that protruded and made the stegouros “chewy,” Vargas said.

Not only is it “a really weird tail,” but it comes from the far south of Chile, “a region that has never produced these types of animals before,” said Kristi Curry Rogers, a biologist at Macalester College. , which was not part of the study. .

Some dinosaurs had pointed tails that they could use as stab weapons and others had tails with clubs. The “blades” on the new species’ tail acted as a sharp weapon used by ancient Aztec warriors, said Vargas, the lead author.

“It’s a really unusual weapon,” he said.

After Vargas and his team examined the skull pieces and performed five different DNA analyzes, they concluded that it was only remotely related to the Stegosaurus. Instead, it was a rare southern hemisphere member of the tank-like ankylosaur dinosaur family. (Although the name Stegosaurus has stuck and could be easily confused with the more well-known Stegosaurus.)

Vargas called it “the lost family branch of the ankylosaurus”.

The fossil was found with its front end flat on its stomach and the rear end tilted to a lower level, almost as if caught in quicksand, Vargas said.

“We’re only scratching the surface when it comes to a comprehensive understanding of dinosaur diversity,” Rogers said. “Stegourus reminds us that if we look in the right places at the right time, there is so much more to discover.”

Stegouros, fossil, Chile
Scientists have discovered a new species of dinosaur in Chile after finding fossils the size of a dog with an unusual tail. This illustration provided by Luis Perez Lopez shows a Stegouros.
Luis Perez Lopez / AP Photo
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