Monday, April 03, 2006

"Gi-normous" oviraptor from Utah

Press Release: Giant Raptor Dinosaur Discovered in Utah Monument
New “egg-thief” dinosaur roamed the southwest

April 3, 2006—Scientists from the University of Utah and the Utah Museum of Natural History have discovered the remains of a new bird-like, meat-eating dinosaur in Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument (GSENM), southern Utah. Although represented only by the fossilized remains of hand and foot bones, comparisons with more complete skeletons found in Asia demonstrate that this animal was about seven feet tall when standing upright.

Discovery of this Utah giant, which is much larger than its counterparts in Canada and the northern US, nearly doubles the documented range of these dinosaurs in North America, and demonstrates that they roamed much farther south than previously thought. A scientific paper naming and describing this animal, and published in the latest issue of the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology, was authored by Lindsay Zanno, a graduate student in the Department of Geology and Geophysics, and Scott Sampson, chief curator at the Utah Museum of Natural History (UMNH), and associate professor in the Department of Geology and Geophysics.

The new dinosaur, formally dubbed Hagryphus giganteus, which means “giant four-footed, bird-like god of the western desert” in reference to the animal’s outward resemblance to a large land bird, its giant stature, and its discovery in the Utah desert. Hagryphus is a member of the oviraptorosaurs, a group of bird-like feathered dinosaurs with toothless beaks, powerful arms and formidable claws. These enigmatic animals are thought by some paleontologists to have been omnivorous, feeding on a mixture of meat and plants.

Although only the hands and feet of Hagryphus are known, the scientists were able to use the animal’s close relatives to estimate the size of the skeleton. The researchers say they do not know why this dinosaur was so much larger than its northern cousins but speculate that it may have been related to different environmental conditions in the south.

To read the full press release, click on the title above to be redirected to the Utah Museum of Natural History's website and access the release and contacts to the scientists involved.

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