The “Dracula” dinosaur, a creature discovered 50 years ago, is making headlines today because of the light it may shed on the evolution of other dinosaurs. The 200-million-year-old Pegomastax africanus, which was found in Southern Africa, may help researchers understand more about the Stegosaurus and Triceratops.
Check out some interesting facts on the ancient creature, as well as how the Pegomastax africanus gained its nickname, the “Dracula” dinosaur.
- 1. What is a Pegomastax africanus? The Pegomastax africanus means “thick jaw from Africa,” explained University of Chicago paleontologist Paul Sereno to LiveScience. The creature had a parrot-beaked skull that was less than two inches...but featured serrated teeth from its upper and lower jaws that were about a half-inch long. “It would have looked like Dracula,” Sereno said. “Probably appropriate since we’re moving toward Halloween.”
- 2. Part vampire, part parrot and part...porcupine? The dinosaur had vampire like teeth, a parrot like skull and interestingly enough, something similar to porcupine quills covering its body. “It would have looked a bit like a two-legged porcupine, covered in these weird, funky, quill-like things,” explained Sereno. While the bristles were not believed to provide protection because of the strength of them, researchers suggest that the quills were either different colors to help identify species, or were used to intimidate predators.
- 3. An interesting diet. Dracula was definitely a predator, but it appears that the “Dracula” dinosaur was not. According to Live Science, the parrot-like beak suggests that the creature was actually an herbivore. Although the skull shape appears to be easy for eating seeds and nuts, the serrated teeth seem to suggest otherwise. Researchers however insist that when the jaws of the creature closed, they slid into sockets of the opposing jaw, meaning that they are not the teeth of a carnivore. “Pegomastax and kin are the most advanced plant-eaters of their day,” said Sereno, who instead explained that the teeth were used for self-defense and competition for mates.
- 4. An odd size. According to National Geographic, the “Dracula” dinosaur would actually be a nice pet. “If you could train it not to nip you,” Sereno added. The reason the Pegomastax would be described as a good pet is because of its size -- no bigger than a house cat. The dinosaur was just two-feet-long.
- 5. A link to other dinosaurs. Although the Pegomastax africanus was discovered 50 years ago, researchers are just starting to see now that it could shed some light on some other dinosaurs. According to Sereno, the Pegomastax was alive when Pangaea began to split into northern and southern land masses. Researchers believe that the Pegomastax africanus is near the base of the ornithischians (beaked herbivores) family tree.