Newly Found Dinosaur Appears to be Missing Link

Newly Found Dinosaur Appears to be Missing Link

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Ed Yeates ReportingScientists have unearthed a bizarre new creature that reveals a missing link in the transition of vicious meat eating dinosaurs to vegetarians. The new species was found in a mass grave in our own backyard.

The international spotlight was on Utah today as scientists unveiled a new discovery - a creature, that in a laymen's view, looks like it was caught in a time warp somewhere between a vicious velociraptor and an ostrich. This is a valued missing link in dinosaur evolution dating back about 125 million years ago. The bones were unearthed right here in Utah's Cedar Mountain Formation.

Scott Sampson, Chief Curator, Utah Museum of Natural History: "Here we have an animal close to velociraptor, and it became a full blown herbivore."

The new discovery now named Falcarius Utahensis is unique because it's the most primitive known within a group of dinosaurs called Therizinosaurs. This one documents the very early transition from a dinosaur that once clawed and tore its prey apart to a bird-like feathered creature evolving into a vegetarian.

James Kirkland, Utah State Paleontologist: "These teeth are found in the beginnings of every single group we see of plant eating reptiles that developed independently of each other in the first stage of shredding leaves and plants."

Falcarius utahensis - a missing link, for sure - but just the beginning!

Lindsay Zanno, Doctoral Student, Utah Museum of Natural History: "We need to make more discoveries of animals as they approach the late cretaceous. So a little bit earlier in time in order to be able to get a real good handle on when they made that complete shift."

In addition to searching for more bones, the Utah research team, along with other colleagues, will continue probing the site for any clues that might reveal why these dinos ended up in this mass grave. Was it something as simple as botulism in the water, gas, or something else?

Fossils and reconstructed models of Falcarius utahensis will be on public display at the Utah Museum of Natural History next month.

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