Scientists have identified a new species of dinosaur, with the help of its 200-million-year-old fossilised bones.
The species has been named Laquintasaura Venezuela, after its remains were discovered dinosaur in the La Quinta Formation in Venezuela. Scientists claim it is the first new dinosaur species to be found in north of South America.
Experts believe the dinosaur would have lived during the Triassic period in small groups – making it the first ornithischians, the ‘bird-hipped’ dinosaur, to have social interactions.
Family members of the dog-sized creature, measuring one metre in length and 25 centimetres at the hips, would have included the Stegosaurus and Iguanodon.
Analysis of the fossils shows the dinosaurs had died aged between three and twelve-years-old, and would have walked on two hind-legs.
It is likely that the Laquintasaura was largely herbivorous - feeding itself on ferns. However, the long curved tips on some of its teeth suggest it might have also eaten insects or other small prey.
Dr Paul Barrett, lead author of the study published in 'Royal Society B', and palaeontologist at the Natural History Museum, said, “It’s always exciting to discover a new dinosaur species but there are many surprising firsts with Laquintasaura. Not only does it expand the distribution of early dinosaurs, its age makes it important for understanding their early evolution and behaviour.
"Laquintasaura lived very soon after the major extinction at the end of the Triassic Period, 201 million years ago, showing dinosaurs bounced back quickly after this event."
Professor Marcelo Sánchez-Villagra, co-author and palaeontologist at University of Zürich, added, "The early history of bird-hipped dinosaurs is still very patchy as so few of them have been found. This early species plays a key role in our understanding of the evolution, not only of this group, but of dinosaurs in general."