Newly Found Spiked Dinosaur ‘Would Be Nice Pet’

By Amir Khan on October 3, 2012 12:15 PM EDT

Dinosaur
A new dinosaur from South Africa may have looked scary, but would have been ideal to have as a pet (Photo: Tyler Keillor)

A new dinosaur from South Africa may have looked scary, but would have been ideal to have as a pet, according to a new study, published in the journal ZooKeys.

The dinosaur, dubbed Pegomastax africanus, or, "thick jaw from Africa," featured porcupine-like quills and self-sharpening fangs, though it was anything but dangerous. The dinosaur was only two-feet long and weighed less than a modern housecat, and likely only ate plants, researchers said.

The quills were likely used as a defense mechanism, and researchers told Discovery News that the dinosaur was likely difficult for predators to catch.

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"I think the bristles would have made it look at least a little bigger than it was -- perhaps they could poke out more strongly when excited," Paul Sereno, study author, told Discovery News. "The main defense would be speed of escape. "These were very long-legged fast critters. (They could inflict) a nipping bite if cornered, using the fangs much like a peccary or fanged deer."

Researchers discovered the fossil in a collection at Harvard University. Sereno studied the remains and identified the species as a heterodontosaur, a group of herbivores that were some of the first to spread across the planet.

"These plant-eaters are among the very oldest we know from the bird-hipped side of the dinosaur tree. They started out small, and some of them got a bit smaller to be among the smallest dinosaurs we know," Sereno said.

Sereno noted that the dinosaur's jaw bone, teeth shape and wear pattern would have made it adept at plucking fruit out of a tree.

"it would be a nice pet," Sereno said, "if you could train it not to nip you." 

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