Oct 13, 2014 04:38 AM EDT
Palaeontologists Discover New Hadrosaur with Large Nose
Palaeontologists from North Carolina State University and Brigham Young University discovered a new hadrosaur with a unique nasal profile. The new dinosaur, named Rhinorex condrupus, roamed in what is now Utah approximately 75 million years ago, during the Late Cretaceous period.
The researchers said that Rhinorex, a plant-eater, was closely related to other Cretaceous hadrosaurs like Parasaurolophus and Edmontosaurus. Hadrosaurs are normally characterised with bony crests that extends from the skull. However, Rhinorex lacks a crest on the top of its head. Instead, the gigantic creature has a huge nose.
Rhinorex fossil preserved in storage at BYU was excavated in the 1990s from Utah's Neslen formation. It is the only complete hadrosaur fossil from the Neslen site. The fossil was mainly studied for its well-maintained skin impressions. But when the researchers rebuilt the skull, they realized that they had a new species.
"We had almost the entire skull, which was wonderful," Terry Gates, a joint postdoctoral researcher with NC State and the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, said in a press release. "It took two years to dig the fossil out of the sandstone it was embedded in -- it was like digging a dinosaur skull out of a concrete driveway."
Based on the recovered bones, Gates estimated that Rhinorex was about 30 feet long, weighed more than 8,500 lbs and lived in a muddy estuarial environment, about 50 miles from the coast.
"We've found other hadrosaurs from the same time period but located about 200 miles farther south that are adapted to a different environment," Gates said. "This discovery gives us a geographic snapshot of the Cretaceous, and helps us place contemporary species in their correct time and place. Rhinorex also helps us further fill in the hadrosaur family tree."
Gates said that the researchers did not determine the main function of the large nose. But, they speculate that the nose might have been used to attract mates, recognize members of its species or as a large attachment for a plant-smashing beak.
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