Bone-bothering boffins pull TINY fanged dinosaur from drawers

Had been sitting in a pile of fossils for 50 years


A two-foot long dinosaur with the beak of a parrot, teeth of a vampire and covered in some sort of bristly quill stuff is the latest new dinosaur to be identified.

The Pegomastax africanus scampered around the earth 200 million years ago, announced Dr Paul C. Sereno, a palaeontologist at the University of Chicago, describing his new dino finding in the journal ZooKeys.

The Pegomastax africanus, Illustration by Todd Marshall, courtesy University Chicago

New dinosaur Pegomastax

The new dino, Pego, is a member of the Heterodontosaur family, and measured up at less than two feet and weighed less than a small cat. It had a beak, fangs and basically looked like a terrifying bitey scrag-beast according to the mock-up created by the University of Chicago.

A Pegomastax skeleton had been sitting in a drawer in Harvard for the past 50 years, said the Sereno, who explained that he had only recently analysed the chunk of red rock where the bones were embedded. The rock was unearthed during a dig in South Africa in the 1960s.

Waxing more lyrical about the small rock-embedded bones, Sereno speculated that the beaked two-legged cat creature may also have been covered in porcupine quills, saying that it would have been like a "nimble two-legged porcupine".

The volcanic ash in which the skeleton was buried has preserved hundreds of bristles that spread from Pego's neck to the tip of its tail.

The Pegomastax africanus, courtesy University Chicago

Same size as a cat, but somehow less attractive

The poky fangs tucked behind the beak - unusual in herbivores - were likely used for sparring and mating competitions. Sereno hypothesised that the fangs were used mainly for nipping, in the manner of today's fanged deer. ®

“Taxonomy, Morphology, Masticatory Function and Phylogeny of Heterodontosaurid Dinosaurs,” ZooKeys online, Oct. 3, 2012


Other stories you might like

  • You need to RTFM, but feel free to use your brain too
    But I was only following the procedures!

    Who, Me? Monday is here, and with it a warning that steadfast determination to ignore instructions might not be such a silly thing after all. Welcome to Who, Me?

    Today's story comes from a reader Regomized as "Sam" and takes us back to his first proper IT job following his departure from the education system.

    Sam found himself on the mainframe operations team for a telecommunications company. The work was, initially, pretty manual stuff. The telco wasn't silly, and had its new recruits start by performing offline duties, such as gathering tapes and job tickets for batch runs, handling payslips, "basically anything involving a bit of leg work," he told us.

    Continue reading
  • Tropical island paradise ponders tax-free 'Digital Nomad Visa'
    Live and work in Bali, pay tax at home

    The government of Indonesia has once again raised the idea of creating a "digital nomad visa" that would allow foreign workers to live and work in the tropical paradise of Bali, tax free, for five years.

    The idea was raised before the COVID-19 pandemic, but understandably shelved as borders closed and the prospect of any digital nomads showing up dropped to zero.

    But in recent interviews Sandiaga Uno, Indonesia's minister for Tourism and the Creative Economy, said the visa was back on the drawing board.

    Continue reading
  • Small in Japan: Hitachi creates its own (modest) cloud
    VMware-powered sovereign cloud not going to challenge hyperscalers, but probably won't be the last such venture

    Hitachi has taken a modest step towards becoming a public cloud provider, with the launch of a VMware-powered cloud in Japan that The Register understands may not be its only such venture.

    The Japanese giant has styled the service a "sovereign cloud" – a term that VMware introduced to distinguish some of its 4,000-plus partners that operate small clouds and can attest to their operations being subject to privacy laws and governance structures within the nation in which they operate.

    Public cloud heavyweights AWS, Azure, Google, Oracle, IBM, and Alibaba also offer VMware-powered clouds, at hyperscale. But some organizations worry that their US or Chinese roots make them vulnerable to laws that might allow Washington or Beijing to exercise extraterritorial oversight.

    Continue reading
  • Beijing probes security at academic journal database
    It's easy to see why – the question is, why now?

    China's internet regulator has launched an investigation into the security regime protecting academic journal database China National Knowledge Infrastructure (CNKI), citing national security concerns.

    In its announcement of the investigation, the China Cyberspace Administration (CAC) said:

    Continue reading
  • Cerebras sets record for 'largest AI model' on a single chip
    Plus: Yandex releases 100-billion-parameter language model for free, and more

    In brief US hardware startup Cerebras claims to have trained the largest AI model on a single device powered by the world's largest Wafer Scale Engine 2 chip the size of a plate.

    "Using the Cerebras Software Platform (CSoft), our customers can easily train state-of-the-art GPT language models (such as GPT-3 and GPT-J) with up to 20 billion parameters on a single CS-2 system," the company claimed this week. "Running on a single CS-2, these models take minutes to set up and users can quickly move between models with just a few keystrokes."

    The CS-2 packs a whopping 850,000 cores, and has 40GB of on-chip memory capable of reaching 20 PB/sec memory bandwidth. The specs on other types of AI accelerators and GPUs pale in comparison, meaning machine learning engineers have to train huge AI models with billions of parameters across more servers.

    Continue reading
  • Zendesk sold to private investors two weeks after saying it would stay public
    Private offer 34 percent above share price is just the thing to change minds

    Customer service as-a-service vendor Zendesk has announced it will allow itself to be acquired for $10.2 billion by a group of investors led by private equity firm Hellman & Friedman, investment company Permira, and a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority.

    The decision is a little odd, in light of the company's recent strategic review, announced on June, which saw the board unanimously conclude "that continuing to execute on the Company's strategic plan as an independent, public company is in the best interest of the Company and its stockholders at this time."

    That process saw Zendesk chat to 16 potential strategic partners and ten financial sponsors, including a group of investors who had previously expressed conditional interest in acquiring the company. Zendesk even extended its discussions with some parties but eventually walked away after "no actionable proposals were submitted, with the final bidders citing adverse market conditions and financing difficulties at the end of the process."

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2022