Author Topic: Missing Link between meat eaters to plant eaters!!!!  (Read 3501 times)


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Missing Link between meat eaters to plant eaters!!!!
« on: February 28, 2007, 12:59:27 AM »,2782,67425,00.html

Falcarius utahensis:

A mass graveyard of dinosaurs unearthed in Utah could prove to be the missing link between carnivores and herbivores, say the paleontologists who made the discovery.

The graveyard contains the fossils of a previously unknown type of dinosaur that descended from the same ancestors as the meat-eating Velociraptor. But the new species, dubbed Falcarius utahensis, has a number of skeletal differences that make the dinosaur likely to have been in transition to vegetarianism.

See photoThe findings allow paleontologists to see a snapshot of evolution in action, say the researchers.

"Among dinosaurs, for the first time, we have a record. We're able to track the skeletal modifications that are associated with herbivory in this group," said team member Lindsay Zanno, a doctoral student at the Utah Museum of Natural History.

Paleontologists say they aren't sure yet whether Falcarius had fully transitioned to being an herbivore, but the fossils discovered hint at a body that was more suited to reaching and digesting plants than the body of, say, the carnivorous Velociraptor.

For instance, Falcarius was equipped with teeth more suitable for shredding vegetation than for tearing into flesh. It also had a broad pelvis, which would have allowed for the large gut necessary to digest plant material.

Additionally, the dinosaur's legs were stubby, indicating that it would have had a hard time running after prey. And its neck was elongated, which would have helped it reach for plants.

An adult Falcarius would have walked on two legs. It was 13 feet long and stood 4.5 feet tall. The dinosaur probably lived about 125 million years ago in the Early Cretaceous Period.

The fossils were discovered in east-central Utah, at a site called the Crystal Geyser Quarry. Team leader James Kirkland, a paleontologist with the Utah Geological Survey, was led to the site by fossil hunter Lawrence Walker, who had illegally taken fossils from the location.

Walker was later indicted in the U.S. District Court in Salt Lake City for theft of government property. He pleaded guilty and received a sentence of five months in prison and a fine of $15,000.

To date, the paleontologists have excavated 1,700 fossils from the Crystal Geyser Quarry, from Falcarius of all ages. They estimate that there are anywhere from 100 to 1,000 dinosaurs buried at the 2-acre dig site. They likely gathered around a spring for food or water and were somehow poisoned by toxic gas or something in the water, according to Kirkland.

Picture of Falcarius on posted web site.
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