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This little guy might not make it onto an episode of Dinosaur Train, but it sure is cool. And by cool I mean terrifying.

Pegomastax africanus
Artificial skin and quills flesh out a cast of a skull from Pegomastax africanus (“thick jaw from Africa”). Photograph courtesy Tyler Keillor
Pegomastax africanus
Pegomastax africanus. Credit: Drawing by Todd Marshall

Move over platypus, a recently discovered dinosaur may have bested you for the strangest combination of physical features. Two hundred million years ago, a two-foot- long, beaked biped covered in quills scampered about an area that is now part of South Africa. [Scientific American]

What’s cool about paleontology is that a lot of bones have been dug out of the ground in the last hundred years or so, but they haven’t all been identified or even studied. This one was found by  Paul Sereno, paleontologist and professor at the University of Chicago, in bones first dug up in Africa in the 1960’s.

Sereno marvels at these punk-sized early herbivores that spread across the globe. Although virtually unknown to the public, “Pegomastax and kin were the most advanced plant-eaters of their day”. [ZooKeys]

What’s really awesome is not that Tyler Keillor sculpted a life like model of Pegomastax, or that he did a time lapse video of it (below), but that he is a Paleontological Reconstructionist!

While there’s no way of knowing if Pegomastax africanus actually looked like this, I don’t think it matters much. Our view of what the dinosaurs really looked like may or may not ever match up with reality, but my son and I sure do love looking at the pictures and videos.

-M

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