It's hard to live up to the title "terrible lizard" when you're only two feet long and weigh less than a house cat, but the newly discovered Pegomastax africanus does its best. With a name that translates to "thick jaw from Africa," P. africanus lived 200 million years ago or so. Its fossil was first excavated back in the 1960s, but only recently got the attention it deserved.

A paper published in the journal ZooKeys (that's free to read online in full) describes the new dinosaur, which is one of the tiniest ever discovered. It had a three-inch skull and a parrot-like beak, complete stabbing canines and flat, crushing teeth at the back of its mouth. Combine that with quill-like bristles, and you get a dinosaur described as being like a "nimble two-legged porcupine."


Despite its rather mean looking dental work, P. africanus is thought to have been herbivorous, using its canines for self-defense, battling over mates, or even to help forage. "It would be a nice pet — if you could train it not to nip you," commented study author Paul Sereno in an interview with National Geographic. A tiny, quilled, fanged, and beaked herbivore dinosaur pet? I'm in.

Images: Photo and sculpting by Tyler Keillor, drawing by Todd Marshall.

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