Giant Duck-Billed Dino Unearthed in Utah

Scott Norris
for National Geographic News
October 3, 2007

A massive fossil skull found in southern Utah represents a new species of duck-billed dinosaur, researchers say.

The unusually well-preserved skull shows the duckbill was a muscular vegetarian, with hundreds of teeth and bulging jaws.

"It could have eaten whatever [vegetation] was in its way," said lead researcher Terry Gates, a paleontologist at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City.

The skull was buried in sediments dating to the Late Cretaceous period—about 75 million years ago—in what is now Utah's Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.

A team of high school students and volunteers from the Alf Museum in Claremont, California, first discovered the fossil in remote sandstone badlands in 2002. (See a map of Utah.)

The excavated fossil was airlifted by helicopter from the discovery site and taken to the Utah Museum of Natural History at the University of Utah.

Gates and colleague Scott Sampson studied the skull, and concluded that it is a new species of hadrosaur, or duck-billed dinosaur.

The species was given the scientific name Gryposaurus monumentensis in honor of the national monument where the skull was unearthed.

The study on the new species appears in today's edition of the Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society.

Duck-Billed Giant

Duckbills such as Gryposaurus are thought to have been among the dominant plant-eaters in the Cretaceous period.

(Related news: "'Bizarre' New Dinosaur Shows Evolution to Plant Eating, Study Says" [May 4, 2005].)

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