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Utah paleontologists discover three new raptor species

Utah paleontologists discover three new raptor species

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SALT LAKE CITY — Paleontologists with the Utah Geological Survey have discovered what are believed to be three new species of dinosaur, based on fossils found near Arches National Park.

The dinosaurs are all dromaeosaurs — also known as raptors — who lived between 120- and 130-million years ago. One of the species, the Yurgovuchia doelllingi, has been named after UGS scientist Helmut Doelling.

Doelling received the honor after having been with UGS for more than five decades, doing geological research and mapping for the survey. The new fossils were found in Doelling's Bowl Bone Bed — an extensive and dinosaur site that was discovered in 1990 as a result of Doelling providing to paleontologist Jim Kirkland taped-together color photocopies of his then-unpublished geological maps of the Arches National Park region.

Dromaeosaurids are known for their enlarged, curved claw on the second toe that scientists believe may have been used as weapon, a climbing aid and a digging tool, among other functions.

The dinosaurs are also central to the study of avian flight: several Asian species are covered in bird-like feathers and are closely related to birds.

According to scientists, the Yurgovuchia, whose name is based on the Ute word for coyote — yurgovuch — may have been an ancestor to the well-known Utahraptor, the largest of the raptor family.

The findings, published Tuesday in the Public Library of Science, have been ongoing since 2005, when UGS paleontologist Don DeBlieux discovered pelvis bones and vertebrae that represented two species of the Y. doellingi. The third species was discovered at nearby Andrew's Site, in the Cedar Mesa formation.

The three specimens are being held by the Natural History Museum of Utah.

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Stephanie Grimes


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