ANN ARBOR, Mich., Feb. 24 (UPI) — U.S. scientists say they’ve found the remains of a new herbivorous sauropod dinosaur that may help explain the evolution of Earth’s largest land animals.
The fossils were discovered near the Carnegie Quarry in Dinosaur National Monument, along the border between Colorado and Utah.
University of Michigan Assistant Professor Jeffrey Wilson and graduate student John Whitlock said the discovery represents a rare look at a sauropod skull.
“At first glance, sauropods don’t seem to have done much to adapt to a life of eating plants,” said Wilson, who is also an assistant curator at the university’s Museum of Paleontology.
But together with paleontologists Brooks Britt of Brigham Young University and Dan Chure from Dinosaur National Monument, Wilson and Whitlock compared the skulls and teeth of the new dinosaur to those of other sauropods and discovered one repeated trend throughout sauropod evolution — the development of narrow, pencil-like teeth from broad-bladed teeth.
“We know narrow-crowned teeth appear at least twice throughout sauropod history, and both times it appears to correspond to a rise in the number of species,” Whitlock said. “This new animal is intermediate in terms of its tooth shape and helps us understand how and when one of these transitions occurred.”
The team reports on the new dinosaur, named Abydosaurus mcintoshi — in honor of paleontologist Jack McIntosh — in the early online edition of the journal Naturwissenschaften.
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