A dinosaur fossil has stumped scientists ever since they found it in Big Bend National Park in the early 1980s. Now, 30 years later, paleontologists report that new data helped them determine that the fossil actually belongs to a whole new dinosaur species.
Albert Prieto-Márquez is a researcher at the Miquel Crusafont Catalonian Institute of Paleontology in Spain, and the lead author of a report detailing the fossil’s origins. He says the new species is a kind of “duck-billed” dinosaur – one of the most common types at the end of the dinosaur era. He says they also have crests on their heads and thousands of teeth for chewing plants.
Prieto-Márquez says it took scientists so long to determine the species of the fossil because they needed more data that wasn’t available in the ‘80s.
“We didn’t have the data or the knowledge to see the different traits that we see now,” Prieto-Márquez says.
Prieto-Márquez worked with Jonathan Wagner and Thomas Lehman, researchers at Texas Tech University in Lubbock.
He says they’re calling the dinosaur an eagle-nosed, shovel-chinned, plant-eating dinosaur – or Aquilarhinus palimentus. It lived about 80 million years ago in the Big Bend region. Similar duck-billed dinosaurs lived as recently as 66 million years ago.
“We don’t know many species who lived before that,” Prieto-Márquez says.
Now, he says he and fellow researchers are studying other previously unidentified species from the area.
“We have more papers on the way, naming and identifying probably one more species, and maybe four or five more that we still don’t know if we can give them a name,” Prieto-Márquez says.
Written by Caroline Covington.