Venezuelan Relative of Triceratops Was No Bigger Than a Fox

The fossil of a new two-legged, fox-sized dinosaur relative of both Stegosaurus and Triceratops, which dates back about 200 million years, has been discovered in Venezuela. The find suggests that dinosaurs advanced quickly across the globe after a mass extinction claimed at least half of all species on Earth, researchers say.

The new dinosaur is named Laquintasaura venezuelae, and was about 3 feet long and only stood up to about 1 foot high. Judging by its teeth, it was an omnivore.

Laquintasaura was an ornithischian or "bird-hipped" dinosaur, an early relative of titans such as duck-billed hadrosaurs, the armored stegosaurs and ankylosaurs, and three-horned Triceratops.

This dinosaur was alive soon after the end-Triassic mass extinction event.

"In many ways, this extinction was a major help to dinosaurs, as it killed off a number of other reptile groups that might have been competitors," lead study author Paul Barrett said. "Laquintasaura is known only 500,000 years after the extinction, and shows that ornithischians were quick off the mark during this recovery period."

The scientists detailed their findings online Aug. 6 in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

—Charles Q. Choi, LiveScience

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