A gentler Eoraptor

Nature breaks the news to us that small, fierce prehistoric predator Eoraptor – the “dawn-predator” – might have been a plant-eater all along:

Many palaeontologists have argued that Eoraptor was the earliest member of the theropods, but the new study suggests that this little dinosaur, toothy as it might appear, was in fact a basal sauropodomorph.

The argument for kicking Eoraptor out of the theropod lineage focuses on the fact that Eodromaeus and Eoraptor lived at the same time and that Eodromaeus has very marked theropod-like features, whereas Eoraptor not only lacks these but also has the inset lower first tooth and enlarged nostrils of a sauropodomorph.

The mistake is understandable, as the differences between the animals come down to very specific details that have only been picked up through comparison to one another. “If the two animals were to run by you with flesh on their bones, it would be a challenge to tell the difference,” says Sereno.

Sneaky little guy, eh?