Researchers have found the remains of a previously unknown species of armored dinosaur in Argentina — the first of its kind to be discovered in South America, according to Science Alert.
The dinosaur, named Jakapil kaniukura, is said to have been bipedal with a short beak and rows of bony disk-shaped armor along its neck, back, and down to its tail. A well-protected species, Jakapil is a part of the thyreophoran species alongside other armored dinos like the stegosaurus and the ankylosaurus.
The discovery was made by paleontologists at the Félix de Azara Natural History Foundation in Argentina. The team uncovered the partial remains of Jakapil in the Río Negro province in northern Patagonia, Science Alert reports. Lead paleontologist Sebastián Apesteguía wrote that Jakapil represents the “first definitive thyreophoran species from the Argentinian Patagonia.”
A holotype of Jakapil kaniukura
Researchers wrote in the journal Scientific Reports that Jakapil was an ancient species of thyreophoran, however, the remains found date back between 97 million and 94 million years ago during the Cretaceous period. The Cretaceous period is also known as the last era of the dinosaurs.
This is a surprising outcome as Apesteguía and his team note in their paper that “these older types of thyreophorans seem to have gone extinct by the Middle Jurassic.” They also added that they were surprised an ancient lineage of thyreophorans survived all the way into the Late Cretaceous in South America.
Thanks to this computer reconstruction above from Gabriel Díaz Yantén, a Chilean paleoartist and paleontology student at Río Negro National University, you can see what this ancient species may have looked like when it was alive.
Apesteguía and his team measured Jakapil out to be 5 feet long with a weight between 9 and 15 pounds — the size of an average house cat. With teeth similar to the stegosaurus, researchers also believe Jakapil to also have been a plant-eating species.