Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Burrowing dinosaurs!

Amazing new discovery reported on New Scientist's website today:


Evidence for a species of BURROWING dinosaur. The coyote-sized animals were hipsilophodonts, closely related to the hadrosaurs (my personal favorite class of dinos), and the fossils were discovered by David Varricchio of Montana State University in Bozeman. It appears that an adult and two juveniles were in the burrow together...does anyone else smell parental care? Its name is Oryctodromeus cubicularis, which means "digging runner of the lair."

Excerpt from the news story:
The bones were inside a twisting, worm-like deposit of sandstone that passed through three distinct layers of rock.
Varricchio says the sandstone formed 95 million years ago when sand washed into a burrow measuring more than 2 metres in length, 30 centimetres in width, and nearly 40 cm high. The dinosaurs inside had apparently already died of unknown causes.

Judging from the illustration, it looks like the skeleton was amazingly complete, also:

Just another illustration of how much there is left to learn (and how much we will probably never even guess) about the ecology and diversity of dinosaurs...awesome find!

Reference:
Varricchio, David, Martin, Anthony, and Katsuro, Yoshihiro. First trace and body fossil evidence of a burrowing, denning dinosaur.
Proceedings of the Royal Society B (DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2006.0443)

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