New dinosaur species discovered

February 24th, 2010 - 3:02 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, Feb 24 (IANS) A team of paleontologists in the US has discovered a new dinosaur species they’re calling Abydosaurus.
Abydosaurus belongs to the group of gigantic, long-necked, long-tailed, four-legged, plant-eating dinosaurs such as Brachiosaurus.

In a rare twist, they recovered four heads - two still fully intact - from a quarry in Dinosaur National Monument in eastern Utah in the US. Complete skulls have been recovered for only eight of more than 120 known varieties of Sauropod dinosaurs.

“Their heads are built lighter than mammal skulls because they sit way out at the end of very long necks,” said Brooks Britt, a palaeontologist at Brigham Young University (BYU).

“Instead of thick bones fused together, Sauropod skulls are made of thin bones bound together by soft tissue. Usually it falls apart quickly after death and disintegrates,” added Britt, study co-author.

BYU geology students and faculty resorted to jackhammers and concrete saws to cut through the hardened 105-million-year-old sandstone containing the bones. At one point the National Park Service called in a crew to blast away the overlying rock with explosives.

The skulls are temporarily on display at BYU’s Museum of Paleontology, where visitors can also watch BYU students prepare other bones from Abydosaurus, said a BYU release.

Analysis of the bones indicates that the closest relative of Abydosaurus is Brachiosaurus, which lived 45 million years earlier. The four Abydosaurus specimens were all juveniles.

These findings are slated to appear in Naturwissenshaften.

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