Newly Found Dinosaur Survived 'Horrific' Extinction

Tachiraptor fossils discovered in Venezuela
By Neal Colgrass,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 8, 2014 4:50 PM CDT
Newly Found Dinosaur Survived 'Horrific' Extinction
The Tachiraptor admirabilis chases its prey.   (Max Langer)

A newly discovered dinosaur in Venezuela may help us understand how species survived a mass-extinction event about 200 million years ago, reports. Based on two leg-bone fossils, paleontologists say Tachiraptor admirabilis was fairly small (5 or 6 feet, tip to tail), ran on two feet, and ate meat. "Tachiraptor probably preyed upon any smaller animal he could catch," says Max Langer, the study's lead author, Discovery reports. That likely made life harder for the only other dinosaur yet found in Venezuela, the Laquintasaura, a plant-muncher that may have moved in herds to protect it from Tachiraptors, Langer says.

Tachiraptors date back to the early Jurassic Period, right after a horrific event decimated about 84% of all living things and wiped out several kinds of dinosaur (sinking sea levels, extreme temperatures, and volcanic eruptions possibly set off the disaster). Tachiraptors may have survived by sticking to a humid, tropical equatorial belt that ran from the Americas to Northern Africa—because the continents were still joined in a huge land mass we call Pangaea. That belt "played a pivotal role in the radiation of the different dinosaur groups," Langer says. So why have only two dinosaurs been found in Venezuela, a fossil-rich area? Mostly due to lack of digging, and the rich vegetation that covers sites in northern regions of South America. (Check out a huge shark-eating dinosaur.)

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