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A History of Dinosaur Hunting and Reconstruction

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Two new dinosaur species discovered
Posted Tue, 19 Jun 2001

Scientists in the US claim to have discovered two new species of dinosaur in New Mexico, that lived about 90 million years ago in swamplands and forests. The strange creatures were covered with feathers although neither flew, and one of them is a descendant of that notorious carnivore, Tyrannosaurus Rex.

The dinosaur remains were found a half mile apart by paleontologists Jim Kirkland and Doug Wolfe in the Zuni Basin, which is on the border of New Mexico and Arizona. The scientists say both of them had bird-like characteristics, and were probably covered with feathers, despite the fact that no feathers were discovered with the find.

One of the dinosaurs has been named Nothronychus (no-thron-EYE-kus), and according to Kirkland it is a member of the theropod class of meat-eaters that includes such dignitaries as Allosaurus and T-Rex himself. Nothronychus evolved into a plant-eater, and stood about twelve feet tall in its socks. It had 10 cm curved claws, a large abdomen and a small head, with a mouthful of shredder teeth for ripping up vegetation. It was bipedal, meaning it walked on only two legs.

The other dinosaur has not yet been named, but it was a member of the coelurosaur (suh-LOOR-oh-sawr) family of meat-eaters. It is only seven feet long and three feet tall, and preyed on smaller lizards and mammals. The head of a 1.2 metre lizard was found near its remains, leading the scientists to conclude that it was probably the dinosaurs' last meal.

The newly-discovered dinosaurs lived in the middle of the Cretaceous period of the Mesozoic era, a time in which the Earth was undergoing radical global warming. The polar ice caps had melted away, increasing the ocean levels to 1000 feet higher than they are today and drastically reducing the amount of dry land on the planet. As a result there are very few dinosaur remains to have been found from this period. Since very few fossils have been found from this time, the find has caused some excitement in paleontology circles.

"This opens a window on a time period that otherwise we wouldn't know about," said Tom Holtz, who was one of the contributing researchers.