This November, a team of paleontologists from the Museu Nacional/Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro recently discovered the bones of a new dinosaur species in Paraná, Brazil, of which they named Berthasaura leopoldinae, in honor of Bertha Lutz and Maria Leopoldina, two notable female figures that have achieved remarkable feats in Brazilian history. Discussions revealed that most believe the specimen lived in the Cretaceous period, around 125 to 70 million years ago. Not to mention, these fossilized remains are one of the most complete specimens ever found of the theropod family from that era.
After the team analyzed its skeleton, they believed the species to have possessed a body length of around 1 meter, or 3.3 feet, and stood at a height of an estimated 80 centimeters, or 2.6 feet, which is essentially the size of a modern-day dog. They also classified it as a part of Noasauridae, an extinct family of diverse, mostly carnivorous Cretaceous theropods.
However, what’s most fascinating about the new species is that it is supposedly the “first [known] edentulous ceratosaur from South America”, as senior author and paleontologist Dr. Alexander Kellner reports, “Berthasaura leopoldinae is the first toothless non-avian theropod known from Brazil,”. In other words, it is the first discovered ceratosaur to possess a beak-like mouth, and likely had a diet that wasn’t strictly carnivorous, or at all, which is considered abnormal in its family.
Researchers are puzzled as to what its diet could have consisted of, and how it came to be. The authors generally speculate that it likely had a herbivorous or potentially omnivorous diet, alluding to its beak. Researcher Geovane Alves Souza, one of the study's authors, claims, “Most likely, [the species] was an omnivore living in an inhospitable environment where it had to eat whatever it could.”, and further clarifies on the topic, “It doesn't necessarily mean it didn't eat meat. Lots of birds, such as falcons and buzzards, eat meat with beaks.” In regard to the inhospitable environment, it likely lived in the region of present-day Brazil, which, back then, was theorized to be a large desert, featuring a mostly sedimentary environment dubbed the Goio-Erê Formation. As a result, it wouldn’t be unanticipated for the species to have adapted through the aforementioned diets.
This discovery is remarkable in the paleontological world, as it sparks new discussions and allows for more informed theories to develop regarding the species’ classifications and its potential paleobiological environment. Berthasaura leopoldinae’s excavation may be a gate into new speculations and potential future developments towards better understanding the past world.