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5 December 2013 11:26 am ,
Vol. 342 ,
At age 30, Dutch biologist Freek Vonk has built up a respectable career as a snake scientist. But in his home country,...
Since arriving on the island of Guam in the 1940s, the brown tree snake ( Boiga irregularis ) has extirpated native...
An animal rights group known as the Nonhuman Rights Project filed lawsuits in three New York courts this week in an...
Researchers have been hot on the trail of the elusive Denisovans, a type of ancient human known only by their DNA and...
Thousands of scientists in the Russian Academy of Sciences (RAS) are about to lose their jobs as a result of the...
Dyslexia, a learning disability that hinders reading, hasn't been associated with deficits in vision, hearing, or...
Exotic, elusive, and dangerous, snakes have fascinated humankind for millennia. They can be hard to find, yet their...
Researchers have sequenced and analyzed the first two snake genomes, which represent two evolutionary extremes. The...
- 5 December 2013 11:26 am , Vol. 342 , #6163
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ScienceShot: When Fanged Dwarf Dinosaurs Roamed the Earth
3 October 2012 10:00 am
Some dinosaurs were weirder than others. Long before Stegosaurus and Triceratops stomped the earth, heterodontosaurs scampered about the supercontinent Pangaea armed with porcupinelike bristles and sharp, protruding fangs. The housecat-sized family has been the source of debate for decades. Because heterodontosaurs' prominent canines resembled those of carnivores, some paleontologists have argued that the creatures supplemented their plant-based diets with insects or small animals. Others have claimed that the vampire fangs were mostly for show, used to spar with rivals for mates or to scare away predators. Now Pegomastax africanus may settle the question. This 2-foot-tall genus of heterodontosaur—which was unearthed in the 1960s but languished in a museum drawer until now—has a parrotlike skull and the genus's distinctive fangs. But microscopic analysis of the wear marks on its teeth and a reconstructed flesh model of its close cousin, Heterodontosaurus, suggest it used its mighty choppers to nip and spar, and not for wholesale meat-eating, researchers report online today in ZooKeys. By filling in more of the heterodontosaur family tree, the rediscovered Pegomastax could shed light on the family's origins, and why they declined and disappeared long before dinosaurs as a whole went extinct.
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