Wednesday, 8 October 2014

Newfound South American Predator Snacked on Little Dinosaurs

by Charles Q. Choi | October 07, 2014 07:22pm ET

A puma-sized predatory dinosaur that may have snacked on its smaller cousins while stomping about an ancient rift valley dotted with erupting volcanoes has been discovered in Venezuela. The finding could shed light on the evolution of all carnivorous dinosaurs, researchers say.

The newfound fossil, from a dinosaur named Tachiraptor admirabilis, was unearthed from the northernmost branch of the Andes Mountains at the western border of Venezuela. The only bones from the dinosaur found so far are its shinbone and part of its hip bone, but these are enough to reveal that the beast was relatively small compared with its later, giant relatives, measuring about 4.9 to 6.5 feet (1.5 to 2 meters) long.

This two-legged species is the first predatory dinosaur unearthed in Venezuela. Its name derives from three sources: Táchira, the Venezuelan state where the fossil was discovered; raptor, Latin for thief, referring to the dinosaur's probable predatory habits; and "admirabilis," for Simón Bolívar's Admirable Campaign, which freed Venezuela from Spanish control, and in which La Grita, the town close to where the bones were found, played a strategic role. The fossils were discovered in early 2013, "near where a road was cut out of La Grita," said lead study author Max Langer, a vertebrate paleontologist at the University of São Paulo in Brazil.

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