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Scientists have unearthed fossils of a strange dinosaur in southern Chile that boasts such an unusual combination of traits that they are comparing it to a platypus, that oddball egg-laying, duckbilled mammal from Australia.
Named Chilesaurus diegosuarezi, it is a member of the same dinosaur group as Tyrannosaurus rex, theropods, which includes the largest land meat-eaters in Earth's history, but it ate only plants with a beak and leaf-shaped teeth, scientists said Monday.
Its skull and neck resembled those of primitive long-necked dinosaurs, and its vertebrae those of primitive meat-eating theropods. It had robust arms, but just two blunt fingers on each hand. It was bipedal, but its wide, four-toed feet were unlike the slender, three-toed feet of most theropods. And it had a bird-like pelvis.
"Chilesaurus constitutes one of the most bizarre dinosaurs ever found," said paleontologist Fernando Novas of the Bernardino Rivadavia Natural Sciences Museum in Buenos Aires, calling the creature an evolutionary "jigsaw puzzle." "The skeletal anatomy of Chilesaurus gathers characteristics of different dinosaur groups, like a floor is composed of mosaics of different shapes and colors. No other dinosaurs exhibit such a combination or mixture of features."