A new species of dinosaurs thought to be related to the Brachiosaurus has been discovered after palaeontologists recovered fossilised heads in a quarry in Utah.
Palaeontologists from Bingham Young University (BYU) found four heads – two still intact – from juvenile Abydosaurus mcintoshi at Dinosaur National Monument in eastern Utah. The skulls provide clues about how the animals ate their food.
“They didn’t chew their food; they just grabbed it and swallowed it,” said Brooks Britt, palaeontologist at BYU, “The skulls are only about one two-hundredth of total body volume and don’t have an elaborate chewing system.”
All sauropods – like the Brachiosaurus and Abydosaurus – ate plants and continually replaced their teeth throughout their lives. They exhibited a variety of tooth shapes in the Jurassic Period, but by the end of the dinosaur age, all sauropods had developed narrow, pencil-like teeth. The Abydosaurus’ teeth are somewhere in between, indicating a trend toward smaller teeth and more rapid tooth replacement.
The find is quite unusual – complete skills have been recovered for only eight of more than 120 known varieties of sauropod.
“Their heads are built lighter than mammal skulls because they sit way out at the end of very long necks,” Britt said, “Instead of thick bones fused together, sauropod skulls are made of thin bones bound together by soft tissue. Usually it falls apart quickly after death and disintegrates.”
Abydosaurus mcintoshi was named after American palaeontologist Jack McIntosh, who debunked the myth of the Brontosaurus, exposing it as a mixed-up skeleton of an Apatosaurus body and a Camarasaurus skull.
Abydosaurus comes from Abydos – the Greek name for a city along the Nile River which was the burial place of a head and neck of the Egyptian god of life death and fertility. Sauros is the Greek word for lizard.
The skulls are temporarily on display at BYU’s Museum of Palaeontology, where visitors can also watch students prepare other bones from the dinosaur. A video of Britt talking about the discovery and students working on the bones is available at http://www.youtube.com/labnews#p/c/40D3F42F4876A5CA/23/It_udTqNk6k