New Dinosaur Formally Named: Giant Plant-Eater Suzhousaurus megatherioides Waddled Across Ancient China

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A team of Chinese and American paleontologists have formally named a new dinosaur: Suzhousaurus megatherioides (pronounced SOO-zhoh-SAWR-us MEH-guh-THEER-ee-OY-deez), meaning Â?giant sloth-like reptile from Suzhou.Â?

Suzhousaurus

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A team of Chinese and American paleontologists have formally named a new dinosaur: Suzhousaurus megatherioides (pronounced SOO-zhoh-SAWR-us MEH-guh-THEER-ee-OY-deez), meaning “giant sloth-like reptile from Suzhou.”

This bizarre dinosaur lived approximately 115 million years ago, during the early Cretaceous Period, in what is today Gansu Province in northwestern China. Though it walked only on its hind legs like the carnivorous dinosaurs from which it evolved, it was instead a waddling plant-eater.

“Suzhousaurus belongs to a strange group of dinosaurs called therizinosaurs, which are characterized by long necks capped by small heads, massive arms tipped with enormous claws, and flaring ribs and hip bones that make their bodies very wide,” said research team member Dr. Matt Lamanna of Carnegie Museum of Natural History.

Therizinosaurs in general range in length from about 2 m (6.6 ft) to 10 m (33 ft) or more. At about 6.5 m (21.5 ft) long, Suzhousaurus is among the largest therizinosaurs known.

The new dinosaur was formally announced in the Chinese journal Acta Geologica Sinica.

“Suzhousaurus is unique because it is the oldest large member of this group of dinosaurs,” said Daqing Li of the Fossil Research and Development Center of the Third Geology and Mineral Resources Exploration Academy of Gansu Province. “Previously, big therizinosaurs like this were known only from near the end of the Age of Dinosaurs.”

Li and Dr. Hailu You of the Chinese Academy of Geological Sciences were the chief researchers on the team. Other team members included Dr. Lamanna and Dr. Jerry Harris of Dixie State College of Utah.

In an analysis of the relationships of the animal, the team found that its closest known relative may be a dinosaur called Nothronychus, which has been found only in somewhat younger rocks in New Mexico and Utah. This relationship allowed Drs. Lamanna and Harris to speculate about an interchange of animals between North America and Asia early in the Cretaceous Period.

“More and more, paleontologists are discovering similar kinds of dinosaurs in rocks of Early Cretaceous age in both eastern Asia and western North America,” said Harris. “The most primitive known therizinosaur comes from Utah, so the group may have originated there, but they evolved large body size relatively quickly once they got to Asia.”

The environment in which Suzhousaurus lived was studied by Dr. Ken Lacovara of Drexel University. “This bizarre dinosaur lived on a warm, semi-arid plain dotted with shallow, ephemeral lakes,” said Lacovara. “It shared its world with a host of other Early Cretaceous dinosaurs, including giant, long-necked, plant-eating sauropods and early relatives of duck-billed herbivores.”

About Carnegie Museum of Natural History

Carnegie Museum of Natural History’s mission is to conduct scientific inquiry of the highest standard, build strategic collections, and use its scientific resources to engage public audiences, fostering a better understanding of the Earth.

The Museum’s Section of Vertebrate Paleontology has been making international headlines since 1899, when its scientists unearthed the fossil skeleton of Diplodocus carnegii, an 85-foot long dinosaur that lived 150 million years ago in what is now southeastern Wyoming.

Dinosaurs in Their Time

On November 21, 2007, Carnegie Museum of Natural History will debut Dinosaurs in Their Time, a $36 million exhibition that will showcase dinosaurs as living animals that interacted with other organisms and the environments in which they lived. Dinosaurs in Their Time will be the first exhibit in the world to reconstruct Mesozoic ecosystems in such precise detail. More information: http://www.carnegiemnh.org/dinosaurs/

Contact Information

Scientific Experts:

Dr. Matt Lamanna

Assistant Curator of Vertebrate Paleontology

Carnegie Museum of Natural History

(412) 578-2696 – Office

(412) 592-3361 – Mobile

lamannam@carnegiemnh.org

Dr. Ken Lacovara

Associate Professor, Department of Bioscience & Biotechnology

Drexel University

(267) 872-4845 – Mobile

lacovara@drexel.edu

Dr. Jerry Harris

Director of Paleontology

Dixie State College of Utah

(435) 652-7758 – Office

(435) 669-3658 – Mobile

jharris@dixie.edu

For comment on therizinosauroid dinosaurs and the significance of the new discovery, please contact:

Dr. James Kirkland

State Paleontologist

Utah Geological Survey

(801) 537-3307 – Office

jameskirkland@utah.gov

For a copy of the paper, please contact:

Ellen James

Communications & Media Relations Manager

Carnegie Museum of Natural History

(412) 622-3361 – Office

(412) 216-7909 – Mobile

Carnegie Museum of Natural History is open Tuesdays through Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Sundays from noon to 5 p.m., and Mondays between July 4 and the Monday before Labor Day, the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day, Martin Luther King Day, and President’s Day from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is $10 for adults, $7 for senior citizens, $6 for children ages 3-18 and full-time students with ID, and free to children under age 3 and Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh members. Starting November 21, 2007 new admission costs will be $15 for adults, $12 for senior citizens, $11 for children ages 3–18 and full–time students with ID, and free to children under 3 and Carnegie Museums members. Convenient visitor parking is available in the museum’s six-level garage at Forbes Avenue and S. Craig Street. For more information, please visit http://www.carnegiemnh.org or call (412) 622-3131.

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