An artist's conception shows how Incisivosaurus might have looked in life, 128 million years ago. Researchers were struck by the prominent, rodent-like teeth at the front of the upper jaw.
A bucktoothed, rabbit-like dinosaur related to Tyrannosaurus Rex and other predators
lived in China 128 million years ago, researchers report. The fossil of the unusual
Incisivosaurus was found in the Yixian formation near Beipiao City in northeast
China, an area that has already produced many unusual fossils, including dinosaurs
Incisivosaurus is part of a group of dinosaurs known as oviraptors, small two-legged
dinosaurs that had parrot-like beaks. However, Incisivosaurus is the oldest oviraptor
found to date and lacks the birdlike features found in others of its group. Instead of
having a beak, Incisivosaurus has a long skull and jaws filled with teeth for grinding.
Its most unusual characteristic are the two large buck teeth at the front of its jaw
similar to those used by rodents for gnawing. The buck teeth suggest the dinosaur
was an herbivore rather than a meat-eater like its relatives.
Other paleontologists said buck teeth alone do not mean Incisivosaurus was a plant-
eater. However, the discovery shakes up the traditional view of theropod dinosaurs,
which are widely assumed to have long, sharp teeth. “The classic view of predatory
dinosaur (theropod) teeth is that they are all basically the same and are shaped more
or less like serrated steak knives,” said geologist Joshua Smith of Washington
University in St. Louis. “However, it is becoming more and more obvious as we begin
to look closely at theropod teeth that they are far more complex than we have been led to
believe and that the steak-knife view isn’t accurate. This is true of Tyrannosaurus and
with new discoveries like Masiakasaurus last year in Madagascar and now Incisivosaurus
in China, it is becoming apparent that it is true of other theropods as well.”
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