SALT LAKE CITY — A new species of dinosaur has been discovered from fossils found inside the Grand Staircase Escalante-National Monument, along with evidence that it was once eaten by crocodiles.
The discovery sheds new light on the interactions that crocodyliformes, the ancient ancestors of modern crocodiles, had with dinosaurs. This represents the first time that smaller crocodylifromes have been seen eating on smaller dinosaurs, switching up the theory that dinosaurs were always dominant at the time.
"The traditional ideas you see in popular literature are that when little baby dinosaurs are either coming out of a nesting grounds or out somewhere on their own, they are normally having to worry about the theropod dinosaurs, the things like raptors or, on bigger scales, the T. rex," said lead author Clint Boyd.
"So this kind of adds a new dimension. You had your dominant riverine carnivores, the crocodyliforms, attacking these herbivores as well, so they kind of had it coming from all sides."
Tiny bits of bone were discovered in four areas of the national monument. Researchers, which included Terry Gates of the Natural History Museum of Utah, thought the reason for this could be that crocodyliformes were eating the younger, weaker dinosaurs in the area. They finally got definitive proof when they found a crocodyliform tooth embedded in one of the bones.
Just as exciting, the researchers discovered while studying the bones that the tiny, herbivorous ornithopod dinosaur was an entirely new species, never seen before. They'll be publishing a paper on that discovery soon.