Aug 07, 2014 I Paul Seaburn

Venezuela Gets Its First Dinosaur

For ten points: name a dinosaur found in the area now known as Venezuela. Until recently, any answer to that question would have been wrong since it was believed by paleontologists that the Venezuelan Andes were too inhospitable for dinosaurs. That changed with the discovery of a turkey-sized lizard that was an ancestor to the Stegosaurus and Triceratops. Named for its homeland, the answer today is: “What is Laquintasaura venezuelae?”

According to the announcement in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B, Laquintasaura walked on two hind legs, measured about a meter in length from beak to tail and fed primarily on ferns and other plants with an occasional insect. It’s an early version of the beaked, plant-eating species known as Ornithischia and lived 201 million years ago. That means it lived in the early Jurassic period after surviving the major extinction at the end of the Triassic period.

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A depiction of a herd of laquintasaura venezuelae feeding on greens and bugs.

This discovery is generating paleontological excitement for a number of reasons. The remains of four Laquintasaura have been found so far, indicating they roamed in herds, something not seen in dinosaurs of that time period. Their location in Venezuela is unusual since the equator ran through it at that time and it was thought that ornithischians could not live in a hot, tropical climate. In fact, very few ornithischians have been found anywhere, so this is a chance to study the ancestor of the Stegosaurus and Triceratops and how it split off from the saurischian dinosaurs such as the Diplodocus and the Tyrannosaurus rex.

Study author Paul Barrett, a paleontologist at the Natural History Museum in London, sums up the importance of the discovery.

The fact that it is from a completely new and early taxon means we can fill in some of the gaps in our understanding of when different groups of dinosaurs evolved.

For fifteen points: how soon before the Laquintasaura venezuelae photobombs Jeff Goldblum?


Paul Seaburn

Paul Seaburn is the editor at Mysterious Universe and its most prolific writer. He’s written for TV shows such as "The Tonight Show", "Politically Incorrect" and an award-winning children’s program. He's been published in “The New York Times" and "Huffington Post” and has co-authored numerous collections of trivia, puzzles and humor. His “What in the World!” podcast is a fun look at the latest weird and paranormal news, strange sports stories and odd trivia. Paul likes to add a bit of humor to each MU post he crafts. After all, the mysterious doesn't always have to be serious.

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