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Incisivosaurus:
A Strange New Dinosaur From China

by David Board

9/21 If you had a hunch weird- looking creatures roamed the earth 128 million years ago, your suspicions have just been confirmed. The evidence is a newly discovered dinosaur called Incisivosaurus gauthieri, the oldest known oviraptorosaur.

It's often been suggested that Oviraptors were egg-eaters. Incisivosaurus probably did not eat eggs. And there are many other distinguishing characteristics of this new bipedal dinosaur.

Incisivosaurus has probably the most unique teeth from front to back of any similar dinosaur. One of the characteristics of reptiles is undifferentiated teeth. That is, their teeth are mostly the same shape and size from the front to the back of their mouths. Mammals, on the other hand, may have molars, premolars, canines, and incisors-all very unique from one another-in the same mouth. Incisivosaurus approaches this kind of variation in tooth structure and size with its large, beaver-like front teeth and it's row of tiny peg-like cheek teeth behind.

These smaller teeth behind the large front teeth resemble those of known plant eaters like Brachiosaurus and Apatosaurus. If so, Incisivosaurus would be the first of the theropod dinosaurs-the group of meat-eaters which includes T. rex and Velociraptor-to exhibit evidence for a herbivorous diet in it the design of its teeth.

But its the front teeth of Incisivosaurus that really stand out-literally. The Chinese paleontologists who studied the fossil describe them as "greatly enlarged" and see similarities to teeth in rodents who use their buck-teeth for gnawing.

It has recently been suggested that Oviraptorosaurs may have been a group of early birds that lost the ability to fly, similar to ostriches. Incisivosaurus, however, refutes this idea because it appears to be an early oviraptorosaur but lacks many bird-like skeletal features. This suggests that oviraptorosaurs as a group were more distantly related to birds and not an assemblage of secondarily flightless birds.

The description of Incisivosaurus was published in the science journal Nature.

 

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