This 200-million-year-old vegetarian 'dwarf vampire' is one of the smallest dinosaurs ever discovered 

This 200-million-year-old vegetarian ‘dwarf vampire’ is one of the smallest dinosaurs ever discovered 

A species of dwarf dinosaur with vampire fangs and bristling quills walked the prehistoric Earth ‘like a nimble two legged porcupine’, according to scientists.

At under two feet long and the weight of a domestic cat, the bizarre 200 million year old creature is one of the smallest dinosaurs ever discovered.

It had parrot shaped skull less than three inches long and a pair of stabbing, vampire like canines which it probably used for self defence and sparring for mates.

The researchers worked with a model maker to create the head of the ‘vampire dwarf’ dinosaur.

Named Pegomastax africanus, or ‘thick jaw from Africa’, it is one of the smallest dinosaurs ever discovered, said Professor Paul Sereno of the University of Chicago in the United States.

The fossil was found in Southern Africa in the 1960s, but only recently rediscovered in a collection of fossils at Harvard university, reports the journal ZooKeys.

As well as the vampire fangs in its short parrot-shaped beak it has tall teeth tucked behind for slicing plants and may have adapted to pluck fruit.

Prof Sereno said: ‘It is very rare that a plant-eater like Pegomastax would sport sharp-edged, enlarged canines like that of a vampire.’

Another artist’s impression of the new dinosaur

Some experts suggest the teeth would have been used for eating meat or insects but Prof Sereno said it was more likely they were used for self defence and competitive sparring for mates.

He based this conclusion on wear and tear on the enamel and suggests they were used like those of living fanged deer, for nipping or even digging rather than slicing flesh.

The Pegomastax would likely have sported ‘a bizarre covering of bristles, something like that of a porcupine”, said Prof Sereno, as a simliar sized heterodontosaur, Tianyulong, was unearthed in China and found to have this trait.

‘In life, dwarf-sized heterodontosaurs like Pegomastax would have scampered around in search of suitable plants looking something like a nimble two-legged porcupine,’ said Prof Sereno.

The dinosaur lived at a time when the supercontinent Pangaea had just begun to split into northern and southern landmasses.

Heterodontosaurs appear to have divided similarly, says Prof Sereno, the northern species with simple triangular teeth like Tianyulong and the southern species with taller crowns like Pegomastax.

He said: ‘Pegomastax and kin were the most advanced plant-eaters of their day’.

The new species of dwarf dinosaur with vampire fangs and bristling quills walked the prehistoric Earth ¿like a nimble two legged porcupine¿, according to scientists.

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