New sauropodomorph species found in Utah

Posted By Ian Randall on 1 April 2010

A partial skeleton of a new species of long necked, herbivorous dinosaur which lived 185 million years ago has been found among the red rocks of Utah. The find, which is reported in a recent edition of PLoS ONE by palaeontologists from the Universities of Stony Brook and Utah, along with the Utah Museum of Natural History, establishes the prevalence of sauropodomorph dinosaurs during the early Jurassic.

Seitaad ruessi. Photo credit - Utah Museum of Natural History, University of Utah.

It is believed that the one metre (10 feet) long creature, named Seitaad ruessi, may have been buried alive under a collapsed sand dune – which would have formed part of a vast desert which covered this region in the early Jurassic period. Seitaad was uncovered in 2004 from the Navajo Sandstone at Comb Ridge by a hiker, Joe Pachak. The creature has been very well preserved in the rock, except for its skull, and parts of the neck and tail, which are missing.

“Although Seitaad was preserved in a sand dune, this ancient desert must have included wetter areas with enough plants to support these smaller dinosaurs and other animals,” said Stony Brook student Joseph Sertich. He added: “Just like in deserts today, life would have been difficult in Utah’s ancient sand sea.”

“We know from geologic evidence that seasonal rainstorms like today’s summer monsoons provided much of the moisture in this sand sea, filling ponds and other low spots between the sand dunes,” added Mark Loewen, of the Utah Museum of Natural History.

Despite the widespread nature of Navajo Sandstone outcrops in this region, little was known about the animals which populated this desert: the few known fossils included a carnivorous dinosaur and a form of proto-mammal known as tritylodonts, all of which were all relatively small compared to Seitaad.

Sertich said: “This new find suggests that there may be more dinosaurs yet to be discovered in these rocks.”

Seitaad ruessi was named for both the Navajo legend, of Seit’aad, a monster which swallowed its prey in sand dunes; and also after the noted explorer and naturalist, Everett Ruess, who disappeared aged 20 in Utah’s red rock country in 1934.


One Response to “New sauropodomorph species found in Utah”

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