One hundred million years ago, the continent that is now North America was made up of two ancient continents separated by an inland sea. The eastern continent, Appalachia, had diminutive, dog-sized dinosaurs running around, according to a new study.
These dinosaurs were part of the Ceratopsia family, whose members have crests and horns topping their heads. Triceratops is the most famous (if not the most typical) of this herbivorous clan. The newly discovered, dog-sized dinosaur was identified from a partial jaw bone, so it’s hard to say exactly what species it was or what it looked like. But the curve of its jaw indicates that its mouth had a beak-like shape.
We don’t know much about the dinosaurs that lived on the continent of Appalachia, mostly because whatever fossils might have survived over those millions of years are buried beneath highly vegetated areas. Most fossils are found in areas of the world where a dry climate exposes the earth and the fossil beneath. This new, rare fossil adds support to the idea that Appalachian dinosaurs were distinct from the dinosaurs living in what would become the western half of North America.
The newfound diminutive dinos don’t really fit the image of dinosaurs as “terrible lizards,” either. They sound more like a creature that us humans would try to keep as a pet: the Late Cretaceous version of a pot-bellied pig.
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