The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

Write for Us
Want your voice to be heard? Submit a letter to the editor, send us an op-ed pitch or check out our open positions for the chance to be published by the Daily Utah Chronicle.
@TheChrony
Print Issues
Write for Us
Want your voice to be heard? Submit a letter to the editor, send us an op-ed pitch or check out our open positions for the chance to be published by the Daily Utah Chronicle.
@TheChrony
Print Issues

Researchers discover new dinosaur in Mexico

By Carlos Mayorga

Officials at the Utah Museum of Natural History presented the skull of a new species of dinosaur Tuesday that could provide clues as to what the world was like when much of western North America was submerged.

Paleontologists from Mexico, Canada and the Utah Museum of Natural History finished excavating a mostly complete skeleton and skull in 2002, but it took more than two years to carefully take all the rock away from the bones and reconstruct the skull.

Only after chipping away to expose the bones could scientists “know with certainty that this is a new animal of science,” said Scott Sampson, a paleontologist at the U.

Erosion exposes few fossils in Northern Mexico because of the area’s arid climate, making it difficult for paleontologists to make discoveries.

“This is the first dinosaur that can be officially named from the country of Mexico,” Sampson said. “It’s tough to find fossils in most places, but it’s more difficult in Mexico because not a lot of rock is exposed.”

The creature, a massive, duck-billed plant-eater belonging to a group of other duck-billed dinosaurs called hadrosaurs, was named Velafrons coahuilensis in honor of the Mexican state of Coahuila where the dinosaur was discovered.

“This discovery is very significant for our Mexican colleagues, their state and their country,” said Terry Gates, a paleontologist at the U. “We hope to bring Mexico into international recognition for the many dinosaur fossils it has.”

On a return trip to the site in 2003, scientists found a horned dinosaur, which they hope to name soon, and another raptor-like dinosaur, giving more clues about the creatures that roamed North America 72 million years ago.

During that period of time, Central America had yet to form, making Mexico the southern tip of the continent. A shallow sea stretching from the Arctic Ocean down to the Gulf of Mexico divided North America, forcing dinosaurs onto a long, narrow peninsula on the Western half of the continent.

The site, which is now dry and desert-like, was once a humid ecosystem hammered with deadly storms, making the Coahuila site a mass grave for dinosaurs.

The discovery “poses as many questions as it answers,” Sampson said. “We’ve really just begun to learn about these things.”

Paleontologists were able to compare dinosaur species discovered in Montana with fossils found in Utah and Mexico, but found that all were different.

“We wouldn’t have predicted that,” Sampson said.

More information will help figure out why so many giant dinosaurs were living on the same landmass at the same time, but lived separated in different areas from Canada to Mexico, Gates said.

Sampson said that either the dinosaurs had access to more food or they didn’t need to eat as much as mammals today. He said both are likely to be factors.

More research is needed to connect species in Mexico with other fossils from South America and even Asia, Gates said.

“It’s an ongoing, pending mystery,” he said. “Where did the Mexican duck-billed dinosaur come from and where did it go?”

U paleontologists plan to return to the site within a couple years, but that will depend on continued funding, Gates said.

“We have worked long and hard to find these fossils,” Sampson said. But still, “Mexico is relatively untapped.”

[email protected]

Tyler Cobb

Officials at the Utah Museum of Natural History presented the skull of a newly discovered horned dinosaur.

Leave a Comment

Comments (0)

The Daily Utah Chronicle welcomes comments from our community. However, the Daily Utah Chronicle reserves the right to accept or deny user comments. A comment may be denied or removed if any of its content meets one or more of the following criteria: obscenity, profanity, racism, sexism, or hateful content; threats or encouragement of violent or illegal behavior; excessively long, off-topic or repetitive content; the use of threatening language or personal attacks against Chronicle members; posts violating copyright or trademark law; and advertisement or promotion of products, services, entities or individuals. Users who habitually post comments that must be removed may be blocked from commenting. In the case of duplicate or near-identical comments by the same user, only the first submission will be accepted. This includes comments posted across multiple articles. You can read more about our comment policy at https://dailyutahchronicle.com/comment-faqs/.
All The Daily Utah Chronicle Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *