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Scientists show off rare dinosaur skull


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PROVO -- A newly-discovered dinosaur species has been found in Utah. A team of paleontologists, which includes researchers from BYU and Dinosaur National Monument, shared their findings Tuesday

BYU paleontologist Brooks Britt showed off the discovery of the rare skulls; scientists call the new species of dinosaur an Abydosauraus.

"This is the only Sauropod skull known for an 80 million-year slice of time from the Western Hemisphere for these Sauropods," Britt says.

The dinosaur fossils were excavated at the Dinosaur National Monument, near Vernal. These types are often known as headless wonders because finding fossils of their bodies is common, but few skulls have ever been recovered.

"It's certainly one of the most important dinosaurs to be found in the history of Dinosaur National Monument, which is something to say considering all of the tremendous material that's come out of there," says Dan Chure, paleontologist at Dinosaur National Monument.

What is an ... Abydosaurus mcintoshi?
  • Researchers say it's part of the larger brachiosaurus family, hulking four-legged vegetarians that include sauropods.
  • The bones came from a quarry known as DNM 16. It was discovered in 1977, but intensive excavations didn't get started until the late 1990s.
  • The skulls were found in 2005.
    -Associated Press

The dinosaur fossils are helping to show the evolution and biology of the dinosaurs, and the fact skulls have been recovered helps to show how the dinosaur's teeth evolved over millions of years.

"You could easily spend your entire paleontology career and never find a complete Sauropod skull, so to have several of them coming out of one relatively small quarry is remarkable, really beyond anything you could hope to find when you start digging Sauropod," Chure says.

The paleontologists are continuing to excavate the same area, hoping for additional finds. They want to learn much more about this species.

"To go through the rock, and you see a little bone, and you excavate around and find a tooth, and it unfolds, and you see these skulls; it's spectacular! It's a dream come true!" Britt says.

The findings were published Tuesday in an academic journal. A more exhaustive paper will be published in a few years as the research continues.

E-mail: spenrod@ksl.com

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Sam Penrod

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