Wealth of Utah Dinosaur Discoveries Named in 2010

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah, December 23, 2010 (ENS) – A record breaking eight new species of dinosaur were described from federal public lands in Utah in 2010 – each representing a genus that is new to science.

On December 15, the Bureau of Land Management, Utah Geological Survey, and Temple University announced the naming of the seventh new dinosaur discovered on BLM lands in Utah this year.

The small Geminiraptor suarezarum, found on BLM lands near Green River, Utah, is the oldest reported “raptor-like” troodontid dinosaur in North America – 125 million years old. Most troodontid dinosaurs from North America are dated to between 72 and 75 million years ago.

Additionally, the National Park Service named a new long-necked dinosaur to bring the state of Utah to a record-breaking total of eight new dinosaurs in 2010.

Worldwide there about 700 named dinosaurs. This string of dinosaur descriptions means that one percent of all known dinosaur species were described from lands in Utah during 2010.

Working from bones like these, the Geminiraptor suarezarum was identified as belonging to a new genus. (Photo courtesy PLoS)

Troodontid dinosaurs like Geminiraptor suarezarum are “raptor-like” dinosaurs often credited with being more intellectually advanced based on their large cranial capacity compared with the overall size of the animal.

Close relatives of the famous Triceratops, the recently discovered plant-eating Utahceratops and Kosmoceratops found on Bureau of Land Management lands in Utah received their names in 2010.

Utahceratops gettyi has a skull 2.3 meters long, a large horn over the nose, and short and blunt eye horns that project strongly to the side rather than upward, much more like the horns of modern bison than those of Triceratops.

Kosmoceratops richardsoni has a total of 15 horns – one over the nose, one atop each eye, one at the tip of each cheek bone, and ten across the rear margin of the bony frill – making it the most ornate headed dinosaur known.

Geminiraptor, at about 125 million years of age, is easily the oldest. The specimen, housed at the College of Eastern Utah Prehistoric Museum, is a distinctive, but incomplete upper jaw inflated by a large, unique air sack that identifies the fossil as belonging to a new species of troodontid.

The site where it was found, known as the Suarez Sister’s Site, is located on BLM lands near Green River and is the second area that is known to have a mass-mortality assemblage of dinosaurs that include the odd sickle-clawed dinosaur Falcarius.

The discovery was part of a project on BLM lands funded by the Discovery Channel and the Utah Geological Survey and was featured on the 2005 Science Channel documentary “Utah’s Dinosaur Graveyard.”

So many new dinosaurs were discovered during the course of this project, including the new giant iguanodont Iguanacolossus announced last month, that the site was turned over to the College of Eastern Utah for further study.

All of the fossils from the Suarez Sister’s Site are curated at the College of Eastern Utah’s Prehistoric Museum in Price, Utah.

Geminiraptor, meaning “twin predatory thief of the Suarezes” is named in honor of Marina and Selina Suarez, graduate students from Temple University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, who studied the geology of the area in order to reconstruct the paleoclimate of the early Cretaceous Period of North America 125 million years ago.

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