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Utah Travel Headlines

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

New Dinosaur Species Discovered In Utah

Fossils from a previously unknown species of dinosaur has been discovered in the red rock canyon country just north of Monument Valley. Utah has numerous dinosaur sites, and new fossil discoveries occur fairly regularly. This one is unique because it introduces a new species, and also because the find occurred in Navajo Sandstone, which does not hold many fossils.

The Salt Lake Tribune has this article about the discovery. Below are excerpts.

The 185-million-year-old specimen is a sauropodomorph, a category of plant-eating dinosaur that stood only four feet at the shoulders and could walk on its hind legs. They evolved into sauropods, such as the apatosaurus and camarasaurus commonly found in Utah's younger Morrison Formation and replicated as plastic bath toys everywhere else.

Bluff sculptor Joe Pachak discovered the bones protruding from the base of a 200-foot face near Anasazi cliff ruins known as Eagle's Nest. After reporting the find, Mark Loewen, a paleontologist with the Utah Museum of Natural History, dispatched a team of graduate students to recover the bones in the spring of 2005.

"The first thing we saw was the hand. It had this big thumb claw, which really threw us," Sertich said. After he separated the specimen from its sandstone sepulcher, Sertich and his colleagues realized they had nearly every bone of a dinosaur type previously unknown in North America.

Loewen and Sertich gave the new species an eerie name, Seitaad ruessi (pronounced SAY-eet-awd ROO-ess-eye), in honor of the young artist Everett Ruess, who disappeared while wandering Utah's red rock country in 1934. The genus name comes from "Seit'aad," the sand-desert monster from Navajo creation stories that swallowed its victims. Scientists believe the Comb Ridge specimen was buried, perhaps while still alive, in a collapsing sand dune.


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