Daemonosaurus chauliodus had two legs and unusually large eyes when it lived 205million years ago
The New Mexico find could help scientists fill in the gaps of an incomplete period of prehistoric evolution
With its large eyes and slanted teeth, Daemonosaurus chauliodus may look like any other of its prehistoric contemporaries.
But this new species of dinosaur - described as having large eyes, buck teeth and being the same size as a large dog - has caused quite a stir in archaeological circles.
The fossil remains of the Daemonosaurus were discovered in New Mexico at a renowned dinosaur site - and it is thought the find could fill in the gaps of an incomplete period of prehistoric evolution.
Digging for clues: Daemonosaurus may have been a 'missing link' between early and later dinosaurs, scientists believe
Daemonosaurus, which ate meat, walked on two legs and has unusually large eyes, dates back to a time early in the dinosaurs' reign during the Triassic Period around 205million years ago.
|Skull: Narrow and relatively deep, the Daemonosaurus' skull is 5.5inches long and has disproportionately large eye sockets|
Fossils of the creature's 5.5in skull and neck were unearthed at Ghost Ranch, New Mexico, a well-known dinosaur site. From these finds, scientists estimated its probable size.
Daemonosaurus is derived from the Greek word 'daemon' meaning 'supernatural being' - because of Ghost Ranch - and 'sauros' meaning 'lizard'.
The species name 'chauliodus' is derived from the Greek word for 'buck toothed' and refers to the animal's large slanted front teeth.
A description of Daemonosaurus appears today in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B.
Scientists believe Daemonosaurus may have been a 'missing link' between early predatory dinosaurs from what is now Argentina and Brazil, and later 'theropod' species such as Tyrannosaurus rex.
Dr Hans Sues, from the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, who led the US team, said: 'Various features of the skull and neck in Daemonosaurus indicate that it was intermediate between the earliest known predatory dinosaurs from South America and more advanced theropod dinosaurs.
'One such feature is the presence of cavities on some of the neck vertebrae related to the structure of the respiratory system.'
Dog-sized: Daemonosaurus dates back to a time early in the dinosaurs' reign
Another group of scientists writing in the same journal described how birds inherited their sense of smell from dinosaurs.
Most experts agree that birds evolved from meat-eating theropod dinosaurs which stood on two legs.
Previously it was thought that birds scaled down their sense of smell while improving their vision and developing the balance and coordination needed for flight.
The new research, based on CT scans of fossil skulls, suggests that the first birds had an even better smell sense than their dinosaur ancestors.
Study leader Dr Darla Zelenitsky, from the University of Calgary in Canada, said: 'Surprisingly, our research shows that the sense of smell actually improved during dinosaur-bird evolution, like vision and balance.'