Meet the Large Dinosaur Discovered by 7-Year-Old

Written by Dayva Segal
Published: August 12, 2022
Image Credit CC BY-SA 4.0
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Doesn’t every 7-year-old wish they could be a paleontologist and discover a new dinosaur species? Well, for one 7-year-old in Chile, that dream actually came true! In 2004, Diego Suarez went with his parents, geologists Manuel Suarez and Rita de la Cruz to study rocks in Patagonia. This region is on the southern tip of South America and is part of both Chile and Argentina. While on the trip, Diego found a rib and vertebrae and ran to his parents to tell them. They took the samples and sent them to Argentinean paleontologists who specialize in dinosaur bones.

At first, experts thought the bones belonged to a few different species. But, when they returned to the area to see if they could find more, they found out it was a new species of dinosaur that had never been discovered before. They found full skeletons with shocking results—this dinosaur, named the chilesaurus, isn’t like any that have been found before.

Scientists think the location may have been the site of a chilesaurus nest. They found many small specimens here, not much bigger than the size of a chicken. However, they have also found specimens that lead them to believe the largest chilesaurus could have been up to 10 feet long. So they think the small ones were probably babies or young chilesauruses.

Why is it Called a Chilesaurus?

The dinosaur is named Chilesaurus, since it was found in Chile. The scientific name is Chilesaurus diegosuarezi‭, after the boy who found the initial bones that led to the discoveries. Diego is officially the youngest person to discover a fossil of a previously unknown species and he holds the Guinness World Record title to show it!

Even though Diego found the first chilesaurus bones in 2004, the dinosaur wasn’t officially named until 2015. It wasn’t until scientists went back to the area to find more specimens that they discovered it was a whole new species.

What Makes the Chilesaurus So Different?

The intact skeletons of chilesaurus led to some astonishing discoveries. This dinosaur has vertebrae similar to the fearsome carnivores like Tyrannosaurus Rex and velociraptors from the theropod family. However, its feet, ankles, and pelvis resemble a different branch of herbivorous dinosaurs, ornithischians. They also have a large claw on their hands, likely used for defense, like sauropodomorphs.

Despite having similarities to meat-eating dinosaurs, the chilesaurus was an herbivore. It has flat, forward-pointing teeth that could have been useful to snip or strip plants. Its pelvic bone points backwards, allowing more room in the gut for larger plant meals. Their legs were also not well-adapted for running. Their predator ancestors had to run fast to catch prey, but the chilesaurus had legs that would be better for walking (and munching on plants).

Experts believe that the chilesaurus is actually a genus of dinosaurs. So far, the only species they have discovered is the chilesaurus diegosuarezi.

3D artist rendering of Chilesaurus
A 3D artist’s rendering of a Chilesaurus diegosuarezi.

http://spinops.blogspot.com/

What Are Theropods, Ornithischians, and Sauropodomorphs?

These are three different clades of dinosaurs. A clade is a group of living things that experts believe have evolved from a common ancestor. Within each clade, there can be several different subgroups and species.

Theropods

The name theropod means “wild beast foot” in Greek. What ties theropods together is that they have hollow bones and three clawed toes on each of their limbs. Besides this, they had a lot of varying qualities. Some had large scales, others had small ones. Some may have had a feather-like covering only when young, others may have had them throughout their life. Some species were as small as 1 foot long, others grew to be 46 feet long.

As mentioned, some of the most ferocious carnivores of the dinosaur world were theropods. However, some did develop into herbivores and omnivores. Some theropods specifically ate only fish or insects.

Examples of theropods are the tyrannosaurus rex and the gigantosaurus.

Fun fact: today’s birds are theropods. They are literally dinosaurs!

Ornithischians

Ther term ornithischia means “bird hipped” in Greek. Even though birds are technically theropods, this clade of dinosaurs had hips similar to today’s birds. Ornithischians also had a special bone called a predentary that allowed them to easily clip plant materials. Some experts also believe that a beak may have been attached here. However, chilesaurus did not have this bone. Experts believe this may be because chilesaurus was one of the first ornithischians and had not developed this bone yet.

Ornithischians also had other features that group them together, like cheek teeth shaped like leaves, teeth that came together for grinding plants, tendons near the pelvis that hardened into bone, and five or more vertebrae attached to their pelvis.

Examples of ornithischians include triceratops and stegosaurus.

Sauropodomorphs

Sauropodomorph means “lizard footed form” in Greek. This clade included sauropods—long-necked, herbivorous dinosaurs. The features of this clade include:

  • Long necks
  • Weak teeth
  • Teeth shaped like either leaves or spoons
  • Stomach stones to digest plant matter
  • A downturn at the front of the upper mouth which may have had a beak attached
  • Three or more sacral vertebrae, 10 or more cervical vertebrae, and 25 presacral vertebrae
  • Large nostrils
  • A large claw on their thumb

Many sauropodomorphs were huge, like the argentinosaurus which could have been up to 131 feet long. Other examples of sauropodomorphs include diplodocus and plateosaurus.

Chilesaurus diegosuarezi.jpg skeleton on display
Skeletal mounts of chilesaurus diegosauezi

CC BY-SA 4.0. – License

Is Chilesaurus a Theropod?

Scientists have gone back and forth on this issue. At first, they did believe that the chilesaurus was a theropod. Even though most theropods are carnivores, there have been other times in dinosaur evolution that theropods evolved an herbivorous species or two like the caudipteryx and the erlikosaurus.

However, after a few years of study, other scientists argued that they are not therpods. Instead, they believe chilesaurses are ornithischians. Some experts believe they may be “basal ornithischians” meaning they may have been some of the original ornithischians!

In general, there is no official agreement on exactly what chilesaurus is. Some people believe they are theropods, others believe they are ornithischians, and still others think they might even be sauropodomorphs. Since they have qualities of each of these extinct clades of dinosaurs, it may take the discovery of more fossils and more study to reveal the truth.

Learn More

Find out more about dinosaurs and fossil discoveries by reading these articles:

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About the Author

I'm a freelance writer who has been working in the field of content creation and digital marketing for more than seven years. My favorite topics to write about include health, animals, fitness, and nutrition, though as a professional content provider and ghostwriter, I can easily write about pretty much anything! I love all animals and have been some form of vegetarian or vegan for over 10 years. My favorite animals are cats, dogs, and chickens, especially my own cat, Tula.

FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) 

Who discovered the chilesaurus?

The chilesaurus was originally discovered by a 7-year-old boy named Diego Suarez.

Who is the youngest person to discover a fossil of a previously unknown species?

Diego Suarez has the Guinness World Record for being the youngest person to discover a fossil of a previously unknown species. He discovered chilesaurus when he was only 7 years old.

Where was the chilesaurus discovered?

Chilesaurus was discovered in Patagonia in Chile.

Why is it called a chilesaurus?

The dinosaur is named Chilesaurus, since it was found in Chile. The scientific name is Chilesaurus diegosuarezi‭, after the boy who found the initial bones that led to the discoveries.

What makes the chilesaurus so different from other dinosaurs?

This dinosaur has features of theropods, ornithischians, and sauropodomorphs. Despite having similarities to meat-eating dinosaurs, the chilesaurus was an herbivore.

What is a theropod?

The name theropod means “wild beast foot” in Greek. What ties theropods together is that they have hollow bones and three clawed toes on each of their limbs. Besides this, they had a lot of varying qualities. Some had large scales, others had small ones. Some may have had a feather-like covering only when young, others may have had them throughout their life. Some species were as small as 1 foot long, others grew to be 46 feet long.

What is an ornithischian?

Ther term ornithischia means “bird hipped” in Greek. Even though birds are technically theropods, this clade of dinosaurs had hips similar to today’s birds. Ornithischians also had a special bone called a predentary that allowed them to easily clip plant materials. Some experts also believe that a beak may have been attached here.

Ornithischians also had other features that group them together, like cheek teeth shaped like leaves, teeth that came together for grinding plants, tendons near the pelvis that hardened into bone, and five or more vertebrae attached to their pelvis.

What is a sauropodomorph?

Sauropodomorph means “lizard footed form” in Greek. This clade included sauropods—long-necked, herbivorous dinosaurs. The features of this clade include:

  • Long necks
  • Weak teeth
  • Teeth shaped like either leaves or spoons
  • Stomach stones to digest plant matter
  • A downturn at the front of the upper mouth which may have had a beak attached
  • Three or more sacral vertebrae, 10 or more cervical vertebrae, and 25 presacral vertebrae
  • Large nostrils
  • A large claw on their thumb

Are birds dinosaurs?

Today’s birds are theropods. They are literally dinosaurs!

Is chilesaurus a theropod?

In general, there is no official agreement on exactly what chilesaurus is. Some people believe they are theropods, others believe they are ornithischians, and still others think they might even be sauropodomorphs. Since they have qualities of each of these extinct clades of dinosaurs, it may take the discovery of more fossils and more study to reveal the truth.

Thank you for reading! Have some feedback for us? Contact the AZ Animals editorial team.

Sources
  1. Wikipedia, Available here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theropoda
  2. Prehistoric Wildlife, Available here: http://www.prehistoric-wildlife.com/species/c/chilesaurus.html
  3. Wikipedia, Available here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Basal_(phylogenetics)
  4. Wikipedia, Available here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ornithischia
  5. USA Today, Available here: https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/2015/04/27/7-year-old-discovers-a-new-dinosaur/26452119/
  6. Wikipedia, Available here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sauropodomorpha
  7. Wikipedia, Available here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chilesaurus
  8. Guinness World Records, Available here: https://www.guinnessworldrecords.com/news/2018/1/kid-makes-history-after-discovering-fossil-of-unknown-dinosaur-species-in-chile-512385
  9. NY Times, Available here: https://www.nytimes.com/2015/05/05/science/child-discovers-fragments-of-unknown-dinosaur-in-chile.html#:~:text=Named%20Chilesaurus%20diegosuarezi%20%E2%80%94%20after%20the,head%20and%20leaf%2Dshaped%20teeth
  10. Britannica, Available here: https://www.britannica.com/list/titanosaurs-8-of-the-worlds-biggest-dinosaurs#:~:text=A%20sauropod%20subgroup%20called%20the,the%20end%20of%20the%20Cretaceous.