October 24, 2012
Heterodontosaurs were freaky. If you don’t believe me, check out the time-lapse reconstruction of this Heterodontosaurus head by artist Tyler Keillor. Released earlier this month in conjunction with a massive monograph on these dinosaurs in ZooKeys, the video beautifully demonstrates how our changing understanding of paleobiology is reviving even classic dinosaurs.
Heterodontosaurus was originally described in 1962. This ornithischian was a relatively small dinosaur, only about four feet long, but the creature’s name is a clue to its Jurassic weirdness. Heterodontosaurus, like its close relatives, had a toolkit of different teeth (or a “heterodont dentition) in its mouth that would have allowed the dinosaur to slice meat, insects, and vegetation. The dinosaur’s teeth are a tell-tale indicator that it was an omnivore. Even more recently, a heterodontosaurid from China named Tianyulong showed that these ornithischians –as distantly-related to birds as possible while still being a dinosaur–had manes of feather-like bristles. Put the whole thing together, and you get what Keillor has created–a Mesozoic equivalent of a wild boar, and one of the strangest-looking dinosaurs ever.
[Hat-tip to Thomas Holtz.]