Scientists Just Found a New, Turkey-Sized Dinosaur in a Prehistoric Log Jam

Thursday, 11 January 2018 - 11:24AM
Earth
Thursday, 11 January 2018 - 11:24AM
Scientists Just Found a New, Turkey-Sized Dinosaur in a Prehistoric Log Jam
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Image credit: Peter Trusler

With Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom cherry-picking the coolest-looking dinosaurs for CGI roles, Hollywood has a vested interest in watching out for new archaeological finds like the one that just happened in Australia—the bones of a new, turkey-sized type of ornithopod, dubbed Diluvicursor pickeringi, have been unearthed in what appears to be an ancient logjam fossilized in an area called Eric the Red West.



Ornithopods are herbivorous, three-toed dinosaurs that started off as small, running dinosaurs that grazed on grass (like Diluvicursor pickeringi apparently did). According to the Encyclopedia Britannica:



"Ornithopods were the dinosaur equivalent of present-day ruminants such as cattle and deer; their horny beaks were designed for cropping vegetation, which they ground up with their molarlike cheek teeth. The ornithopods flourished from the Late Triassic Period to the Late Cretaceous Period (about 229 million to 65.5 million years ago) and were one of the most successful and enduring dinosaur lineages."



Diluvicursor pickeringi apparently lived in the great rift valley that used to exist between Australia and Antarctica. Though only tail and foot bones were discovered, the fossils are enough to give scientists a window into how the dinosaur looked and behaved, as well as what kinds of ornithopods lived in the great rift valley.

 

So far, scientists have identified at least two:



"One was lightly built with an extraordinarily long tail, while the other, Diluvicursor, was more solidly built, with a far shorter tail. Our preliminary reconstruction of the tail musculature of Diluvicursor suggests this dinosaur was a good runner, with powerful leg retracting muscles," Dr. Herne said.



The fossils were discovered in an eroding rock platform which also contained fossilized conifer trees, tree stumps, and branches. Based on the geology of the area, archaeologists hypothesize that all of the material was carried by a river, which ended up creating a log jam. The Diluvicursor's body was surrounded by this pile of wood, suggesting it was carried along with the logs.



Diluvicursor may not make its way into the next Jurassic Park (small herbivores aren't as glamorous as the devil-horned Carnotaurus), but its discovery has uncovered a new piece of unexplored territory in Earth's history...which is arguably much cooler than watching velociraptors open doors.

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