By Valerie Fry
BYU paleontologists may have discovered a new species of dinosaur near Moab this summer.
The bones of a dinosaur were uncovered in the Morrison Formation, which is a part of the rock formations in Moab. The Morrison Formation is a large group of rock layers, which have been the most fertile source of dinosaur fossils in North America.
“To find something new is unusual because we have looked at the Morrison Formation for so long,” said Rod Scheetz, curator of the Earth Science Museum. “For 20 years we haven”t found anything new; this is very exciting.”
Most of the Morrison Formation dates back to 145 million years ago, from the upper Jurassic period. Initially it seemed the bones looked to be an Apatosaurus, but the size of the femur suggests a different story. While the dinosaur may be different from the Apatosaurus, it is still a type of Sauropod.
Sauropods are long-necked, long-tailed herbivorous dinosaurs, and are the most common among the fossils found in the Morrison formation, Scheetz said.
The team from the Earth Science Museum uncovered a pelvis, femur, several tail vertebrae and 12 of the 15 neck vertebrae, according to a news release.
“We were excited when we first saw the tail vertebrae,” Scheetz said. “They were articulated and moving into the hillside, suggesting that the remainder of the dinosaur is close by. We have high hopes as we go back this summer that we find more of the animal.”
Scheetz first realized the dinosaur was a new species when the pelvis was uncovered and cleaned, according to a news release. However, it will take time before Scheetz can be sure it is a new species and name the dinosaur.
“It”s not necessarily rare [to find a new species] but it is significant, you are adding new things to the scientific world,” said Garrett Schwanke, a senior majoring in geology who was present on the dig.
Lin Ottinger, a dinosaur hobbyist, was the first to discover the dinosaur”s tail vertebrae in the 1960s and contacted BYU.