for National Geographic News
A new species of dinosaur was announced by Indian and American scientists today: a 30-foot (9-meter), horned carnivore that hunted other dinosaurs 65 million years ago.
A reconstruction of the dinosaur's skull (see photo gallery) may shed light on how the continents drifted into their present positions and what might have caused the extinction of the dinosaurs.
When paleontologists Paul Sereno and Jeff Wilson arrived in India in 2001 to study a mixed collection of dinosaur bones gathered by Indian scientists 18 years earlier, they found the bones spread out on an office floor.
Sifting through the collection, they separated out the bones of a theropod, or meat-eating dinosaur. When they found the center part of a skull, they recognized a horn resembling those of dinosaurs found in Madagascar. Their search continued, yielding a left hip, then a right hip, then a sacrum.
Sereno and Wilson consulted detailed, hand-drawn maps drafted by their Indian counterparts and discovered the bones had been buried next to each other, as if they had been connected.
"There was a Eureka! moment when we realized we had a partial skeleton of an undiscovered species," said Sereno, a paleontology professor at the University of Chicago and a National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence.
The bones were collected in 1983 by Suresh Srivastava of the Geological Survey of India (GSI) and Ashok Sahni, a paleontologist at Panjab University, during a search for dinosaur eggs and nests.
Srivastava drew a detailed map to document the position of the fossil bones as they lay in the field. The scientists then stored the 65-million-year-old bones at a GSI office, where they stayed until Sereno and Wilson arrived.
Working with Indian experts, Wilson and Sereno reconstructed the skull of the new species, a stocky, 30-foot-long (9-meter-long) carnivore named Rajasaurus narmadensis, which means "regal dinosaur from the Narmada," the river region in western India where the bones were found. The project was supported in part by the National Geographic Society.
"We knew of fragments and bones [in India]," said Sereno, who has discovered new dinosaur species on five continents. "But this skull reconstruction offers the first glimpse into the lost world of the Indian dinosaur."
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