A reptile fossil caught the eye of the scientific community recently. Limusaurus Inextricabilis is a primitive theropod dinosaur belonging to the same group of carnivores as the Velociraptor and T-Rex that lived approximately 150 million years ago in China. The most impressive thing about the carnivorous reptile was its ability to shed teeth and grow beaks.
Scientists initially thought they stumbled upon two different creatures when they first discovered Limusaurus fossils. At one point, as Shuo Wang from the Capital Normal University in Beijing, China, recalls, they even started to describe two individuals belonging to the same species separately.
This was because the remains of one specimen featured teeth, while the other had a beak. However, after analyzing the fossils in detail and discovering compelling similarities between the two individuals, the scientists concluded that the reptiles were, in fact, shedding their teeth and growing beaks as they got older.
Hence, according to the researchers, hatchlings were carnivorous and used their teeth to feed on other animals for the first half of their lives. As they were growing older, the dinosaurs were gradually shifting to a diet that consisted mainly of greens. In order to adapt, the reptiles renounced their predatory nature, shed their teeth, grew beaks instead, and used them to peck at plants as adults.
According to Stephen Brusatte at the University of Edinburgh, there is no other mention of similar creatures ever discovered up until know. He says that the platypus is the only land-living vertebrate that does anything similar. One theory as to why the ancient reptile was able to shed its teeth belongs to Dr. Stig Walsh of the National Museums in Scotland. He says that one possible explanation as to why the Limusaurus developed beaks as adults was because it needed to rely on a more abundant food source as they grew larger.
However, at this point, more research is needed in order to determine how could this have affected the evolution of modern-day birds. Researchers were aware that some amphibians and fish are able to lose their teeth as they grow. Nevertheless, the Limusaurus is the first reptile to have been discovered mirroring such practice.
Image Source: Wikipedia
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