Dinosaur discovery in Utah, USA


From LiveScience:

Pot-Bellied Dinosaur Skeleton Found in Utah

By Jeanna Bryner, Senior Writer

posted: 14 July 2009 07:59 pm ET

The most complete skeleton of a type of pot-bellied dinosaur, a therizinosaur, has been discovered in southern Utah.

Such remains shed light on the evolution of leafy and meaty diets back in paleo times, suggesting that iconic predators like Velociraptor may have evolved from less fearsome plant-eating ancestors.

The newly discovered dinosaur, dubbed Nothronychus graffami, lived some 93 million years ago. When alive, the animal would have stood at 13 feet (4 meters) and sported a beaked mouth and forelimbs tipped with 9 inch- (22 cm)-long sickle claws.

Its stumpy legs, large gut and other features suggest the lumbering giant scarfed down plants rather than chasing after meaty prey.

“It takes a lot of gut-time to digest plants,” said lead researcher Lindsay Zanno of the Field Museum in Chicago. “Plant eaters have to develop long digestive tracts to get the energy they need to survive.”

Diet discovery

The dinosaur’s physical features match up with other so-called therizinosaurs, a mysterious group of dinosaurs now thought to be a type of maniraptoran dinosaur, which share a common ancestor with birds (though the two groups split some 150 million years ago, during the Jurassic Period).

While most theropods, such as Tyrannosaurus rex and Velociraptor, were meat eaters, the therizinosaurs likely consumed plants.

To figure out how both carnivorous and herbivorous diets evolved in theropods, Zanno and her colleagues compared the anatomy of the newly discovered dinosaur with specimens from 75 other theropod species. In doing so, the team found that plant-eating therizinosaurs like N. graffami are the most ancient group of maniraptorans.

That meant plant-eating was around early in the evolution of maniraptorans.

Early plant eating

Several maniraptoran lineages show adaptations for plant-eating, including the beaked ornithomimosaurs (ostrich-dinosaurs) and oviraptorosaurs (egg-thieves). So the team looked at herbivorous and carnivorous features in a sample of maniraptorans, finding the earliest species may already have been at least flirting with the idea of plant-eating.

“Before this we thought that plant-eating theropods like therizinosaurs were a rare occurrence,” Zanno told LiveScience. “We knew they must have evolved from meat-eaters somewhere in their ancestry, but before our study it seemed like plant-eating was the exception not the norm for maniraptoran theropods.”

Rather than a rarity, Zanno and her colleagues discovered that eating plants exclusively or in combination with meat can be traced back to the origins of the maniraptoran group as a whole.

“Many lineages of maniraptoran dinosaurs likely ate some amount of plants as part of their diet, and they probably inherited this ability from the common ancestor of the whole group,” Zanno said. “Thus, predatory maniraptoran dinosaurs like Velociraptor must have re-evolved exclusive meat-eating.”

The researchers speculate this ability to nab veggies may have allowed maniraptorans to move into new niches and diversify in ways they couldn’t when only meat was on the menu.

“Something happened early in the evolution of maniraptorans that is tied to their incredible diversity,” Zanno said. “The ability to feed on much more than just meat may have been one of several key innovations contributing to their ultimate success.”

The discovery is reported online July 15 in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences.

A typical therizinosaur–the gangly, long-clawed, pot-bellied theropods that have long baffled paleontologists–Erlikosaurus is one of the few of its type to have yielded a near-complete skull, from which experts have been able to infer its herbivorous lifestyle: here.

The most thorough skeleton of a kind of pot-bellied dinosaur, a therizinosaur, has been unearthed in southern Utah: here.

“Therizinosaur” isn’t a household name. This group of feathery dinosaurs hasn’t been around long enough to have the same cultural cachet as the tyrannosaurs, “raptors“, or other famous dinosaur tribes. But the therizinosaurs really do deserve more popularity. Although they were cousins of the carnivorous, sickle-clawed deinonychosaurs, the therizinosaurs were long-necked, pot-bellied omnivores and herbivores, albeit ones that had insanely long claws on their hands. They are some of the strangest dinosaurs ever found, and a track discovered in Alaska adds a few flourishes to our picture of the therizinosaurs: here.

Osteology of Falcarius utahensis (Dinosauria: Theropoda): characterizing the anatomy of basal therizinosaurs: here.

It was the biggest-ever carnivore to stalk the land and with banana-sized teeth and a set of jawbones that could swallow a kitchen table, Tyrannosaurus rex truly earned its name as king of the dinosaurs. But now scientists may have uncovered T.rex’s dirty secret – it was a prolific baby killer: here.

One of the more recent Oviraptor-like dinosaurs to be discovered in Central Asia, Heyuannnia differs from its Mongolian relatives in actually having been unearthed in China proper: here.

Pelecanimimus is what paleontologists call a “basal” ornithomimid, one that had less evolved features than the bigger, faster “bird mimic” dinosaurs of the late Cretaceous period (like Ornithomimus): here.

4 thoughts on “Dinosaur discovery in Utah, USA

  1. Clues to a 50-year-old mystery unearthed in groundbreaking dinosaur find

    By Bureau of Land Management

    Dec 30, 2010

    Two remarkable new species of horned dinosaurs have been found in Grand Staircase Escalante-National Monument (GSENM). These discoveries offer new clues to a mystery that has left paleontologists deeply puzzled for the last 50 years.

    Utahceratops gettyi

    Name Origin: The first part of the name combines the state of origin, Utah with ceratops, Greek for “horned face.” The second part of the name honors Mike Getty, paleontology collections manager at the Utah Museum of Natural History and discoverer of the animal.

    Placement of Horns: Short and blunt eye horns project strongly to the side rather than upward, like horns of a bison.

    Estimated Body Length: 18 – 22 feet (about 6–7 meters) long.
    Estimated Weight: 3–4 tons.


    Kosmoceratops richardsoni

    Name Origin: The first part of the name refers to kosmos, Latin for “ornate,” and ceratops, Greek for “horned face.” The second part of the name honors Scott Richardson, the volunteer who discovered two separate skulls of this animal.

    Placement of Horns: 15 horns – one over the nose, one atop each eye, one at the tip of each cheek bone, and ten across the rear margin of the bony frill – make it the most ornate headed dinosaur known.
    Estimated Body Length: 15 feet (about 4 meters) long.

    Estimated Weight: 2.5 tons.
    Uncovering a Mystery
    In the 1960s, paleontologists began to make a peculiar observation about an area known as Laramidia. This landmass existed during the Late Cretaceous period (about 76 million years ago) when North America was separated by a shallow sea called the Western Interior Seaway. It extended from the Arctic Ocean to the Gulf of Mexico, subdividing the continent in to eastern and western landmasses, known as Appalachia and Laramidia, respectively. Little is known about Appalachia but the rocks of Laramidia exposed in the Western interior of North America hold an abundance of dinosaur remains.

    North America in the Late Cretaceous PeriodWith the available fossils, paleontologists observed that the same major groups of dinosaurs seemed to be present all over Laramidia but it appeared that different species of these groups occurred in the north (including Alberta and Montana) than in the south. It has been difficult to confirm this theory because Utah was located in the southern part of Laramidia where fewer fossils have been found than in the north.
    New Clues
    The newest dinosaurs were discovered in GSENM, which encompasses 1.9 million acres of high desert terrain in south-central Utah. This vast and rugged region is part of the National Landscape Conservation System administered by the BLM. In the Late Cretaceous period the GSENM was a subtropical swampy environment about 100 km from the seaway.

    These recently discovered plant-eating dinosaurs are close relatives of the famous Triceratops, but they have some defining physical traits that make them unique. Kosmoceratops richardsoni has a total of 15 horns – one over the nose, one atop each eye, one at the tip of each cheek bone, and ten across the rear margin of the bony frill –making it the most ornate headed dinosaur known. The Utahceratops gettyi has a skull 2.3 meters long, a large horn over the nose, and short and blunt eye horns that project strongly to the side rather than upward, much more like the horns of modern bison than those of Triceratops.

    These fossils, along with earlier finds at the Grand Staircase–Escalante National Monument (GSENM) confirm that dinosaurs living on Laramidia were divided into at least northern and southern “provinces.”
    Remaining Questions
    Seventy-five million years ago there may have been at least two dozen species of rhino-to-elephant sized dinosaurs living on a landmass about one-eighth the size of Africa. Paleontologists are working to understand how these giant dinosaurs were able to co-exist on such a small continent. There is hope that the new fossil discoveries in GSENM will shed some light on the subject.

    Note: These findings are the result of an ongoing collaboration between the Bureau of Land Management, the University of Utah, the Utah Geologic Survey, and the Raymond Alf Museum of Paleontology. A recent study of these latest finds was funded in large part by the Bureau of Land Management and the National Science Foundation. The study was led by Scott Sampson and Mark Loewen of the Utah Museum of Natural History (UMNH) and Department of Geology and Geophysics, University of Utah. Additional authors include Andrew Farke (Raymond Alf Museum) Eric Roberts (James Cook University), Eric Lund (University of Utah), Catherine Forster (George Washington University), and Alan Titus (Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument).

    © Copyright 2002-2006 by North Texas e-News, llc


  2. Snehlata Shrivastav, TNN, Dec 24, 2010, 04.05am IST

    Did city host the last dinosaurs? – The Times of India

    NAGPUR: Palaeontologists from the Geological Survey of India (GS), central region, in city can look forward to some exciting exploration soon.

    An associate professor from Bengal Engineering and Science University, Shibpur, Howrah, found a thigh bone and tooth of a dinosaur right in the middle of city in Hazaripahad area (Seminary Hills) on Wednesday while looking for invertebrate fossils known to be found in the sedimentary rocks of region. The fossil could be as old as 66-65 million years old.

    A thrilled Tapas Kumar Gangopadhyay, after finding the fossil not even two feet below the surface just 2 km from the GSI office, brought it to TOI to inform about his finding.

    “I was looking for boneless molluscans. I happened to locate this fossil and separated the rock piece with the fossil. Although GSI is yet to certify it as a dinosaur fossil and conduct the taxonomic studies, I am very sure it is a dinosaur’s remain,” he said.

    Gangopadhyay said that 60-65 million years ago Nagpur region was breeding site of dinosaurs. He was searching for some invertebrate terrestrial molluscan also known to be found between two basalt flow horizons as sedimentary horizons or intertrappean rocks. The same portions could also house dinosaur remains.



  3. Pingback: Ant-eating dinosaurs? | Dear Kitty. Some blog

  4. Pingback: Mongolian dinosaurs’ eggs discovery | Dear Kitty. Some blog

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