Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Utah Dinosaur Buried Alive? Bad News for Dino, Good News for Paleontologists

"New Dinosaur Might Have Been Buried Alive"
Discovery News (March 23, 2010)

"During the Early Jurassic Period, a sand dune collapsed at Utah's red rocks with such force that it might have buried alive a plant-eating dinosaur, entombing and preserving the dinosaur upside-down for 185 million years, according to a new study published in the journal PLoS ONE.

"The buried remains represent Utah's oldest most complete dinosaur. It has been named Seitaad ruessi, with the first word referring to a Navajo creation legend sand-desert monster that swallowed individuals in the dunes. The second honors artist and explorer Everett Ruess, who mysteriously disappeared at age 20 in the same region during the 1930s.

"Ruess' body has never been found, but the fossils of the new dinosaur froze the animal's final moments. A CT scan reveals the dinosaur was missing a single toe and a lower leg bone, suggesting that it either died and was shortly thereafter engulfed by a collapsing sand dune, or was buried alive...."

It's a pretty big deal. This is the oldest (relatively) complete fossilized dinosaur found in Utah: and is an early model of the huge sauropods. Those are those thick-bodied, long-necked dinosaurs that, together with T-Rex, are what many folks may think of first when they hear "dinosaur."

Apart from the 'coolness factor,' a complete - or nearly-complete - fossilized anything is important to paleontologists. If nothing else, it lets them verify the accuracy of their educated guesses about which bones belong with which critters. Like the Brontosaurus/Apatosaurus mistake. And no, I don't think that proves evolution is a fraud, any more than I think that the lack of dinosaur bones stamped with "Made By God" prove that God doesn't exist. ("Dinosaurs, Mutant Chickens, Evolution, and Faith in God," A Catholic Citizen in America (June 29, 2009))

And, this creature was one of the first sauropodomorphs from North America.

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