Scientists now believe that a tiny dinosaur with vampire-like fangs was actually a herbivore.
Pegomastax Africanus was a 2-foot-long heterodontosaur that lived approximtely 200 million years ago. Heterodontosaurs are a genus of small, fanged dinosaur species that scampered between the toes of other dinosaurs when the giant creatures roamed the Earth.
According to Dr. Paul Sereno, the Pegomastax Africanus was likely covered in porcupine-like quills with a blunt, parrot-like beak.
“[The dinosaur] would have looked like a strange little bird,” said Sereno, a paleontologist with the University of Chicago. “It is very rare that a plant-eater like Pegomastax would sport sharp-edged enlarged canines.”
Nevertheless, says Sereno, the dinosaur’s fang probably resembled those of the piglike peccary, fanged deer, or water chevrotain – all modern-day, plant-eating mammals that use their teeth for self-defense and foraging. As implied by its name, the species was thought to inhabit forested rivers in southern Africa.
Hans-Dieter Sues, a vertebrate paleontologist at the National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C., told National Geographic the P. Africanus’ sophisticated jaw structure was well ahead of its time, as such structures evolved again millions of years later in mammals.
“If the housecat-size dinosaur lived today it would be a nice pet – if you could train it not to nip you,” he added.