Mini yet mighty: New two-legged, armoured dinosaur found in Argentina is the first of its kind

Researchers in Argentina have dug up a dinosaur unlike anything seen before.

Over the last couple of hundred years, we have pretty much come to grips with the general shapes and sizes of dinosaurs. So it’s not every day that we find fossils which break the mould.

Called Jakapil kaniukura, the new dinosaur has spikes and armour plating similar to the famous Stegosaurus and Ankylosaurus. At roughly 1.5 metres from nose to tail and weighing about as much as a cat (4-7 kilograms), the new dino kid on the block is lightweight by dinosaur standards. With leaf-shaped teeth, it was a an herbivore, chomping on vegetation between 97 million and 94 million years ago.

The dinosaur was bipedal and had a short beak capable of chewing through tough, woody plants, according to the paper announcing the discover published in Scientific Reports.

A video showing a computer-simulated reconstruction of Jakapil produced by Chilean palaeoartist and palaeontology student at the Río Negro National University Gabriel Díaz Yantén can be viewed below.

Jakapil lived in the last period of dinosaur rule, the Cretaceous. This suggests that a whole lineage of armoured dinosaurs, previously unknown to science, was living in South America.

Paleontologists at the Argentinian Félix de Azara Natural History Foundation uncovered a partial skeleton of a subadult Jakapil The specimen was uncovered in rich dinosaur country in the Río Negro province in northern Patagonia, southern Argentina.

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Most dinosaurs from the Thyreophora group, including Stegosaurs and Ankylosaurs, have been found in the northern hemisphere and lived in the Jurassic period which came before the Cretaceous.

The authors of the new paper write that the discovery of Jakapil “shows that early thyreophorans had a much broader geographic distribution than previously thought.”

Among the fossils of the specimen are a near-complete lower jaw, neck, back and tail vertebrae, leg and arm bones, and of course some of the spikes running from its neck down the animal’s spine.

Humble yet hardy, Jakapil kaniukura takes its name from the “shield bearer” in the Puelchean or northern Tehuelchean indigenous language of Argentina, and “Kanikura” comes from words meaning “crest” and “stone” in the indigenous Mapudungun language.

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