Discovering one of South America’s most intriguing
dinosaurs was child’s play: Diego Suarez was just 7 when
he found the first fossils of the 145-million-year-old
herbivore that would bear his name, Chilesaurus diegosuarezi.
The hard work began when paleontologists tried to fit it into the
dinosaur family tree. Chilesaurus, which grew to about 10 feet
long, has a previously unseen mix of primitive and advanced
skeletal features. After analyzing fossils from more than a
dozen specimens, researchers reported in April in Nature
that the herbivore was actually a kinder, gentler cousin
of such bitey carnivores as T. rex and Velociraptor.
Chilesaurus is a rare example of a species from
the generally predatory theropod group that
evolved into a plant-eater.