It’s that time again! A brand spanking new dinosaur has been discovered, this time in Utah. Hauled from the ground in impeccable condition, this fossilized beastie was, once upon a time, a pleasant and peaceful herbivore. It’s pretty much a variant on the classic Brachiosaurus, with a very long neck and a penchant for plodding.
This 9.8-meter-long (32 feet) small-brained sauropod, which wandered through an Early Cretaceous rendering of North America around 125 million years ago, is classified as a titanosauriform. As the name suggests, it’s massive, and few predators would have been able to turn one of them into their supper.
Although it is most closely related to similarly shaped dinosaurs found in Spain and Tanzania, this fossil is distinctive enough to belong not just to a new species, but an entirely new genus. The research team at Brigham Young University (BYU) have therefore named it Moabosaurus utahensis, which as you might expect, honors the site it was found in – Moab, Utah.
Back when this particular monster was alive, Utah wasn’t a desert. It was covered in forests and lakes, but sadly, it appears a drought swept across the land and wiped out thousands of these poor dinosaurs. Those that survived walked over the corpses of their fallen kind, which ended up crushing their bones rather significantly.
Well hi there, fella! BYU via YouTube
Consequently, this meant that only 3 percent of the bones collected from the quarry site were “articulated,” or complete. This made piecing together the original “type” specimen for the Moabosaurus quite difficult, but as the impressive display in BYU’s Museum of Paleontology in Provo, Utah clearly shows, the research team nailed it.
“We’ve been really excited for this new dinosaur,” BYU geology professor and lead author Brooks Britt said in an accompanying video. “It’s one we’ve been working on for decades – we had to collect huge numbers of bones, and to get enough that were complete, to describe the new animal.”
Meet Moabosaurus. Brigham Young University via YouTube
Its similarity to other sauropods in Europe and Africa serves as another reminder that, back then, the surface of the planet looked quite different from today – land bridges between the continents still existed in places where there is only wild ocean now.
Writing in the publication Contributions from the Museum of Paleontology, the team noted that this excavated fossil won’t be the last of its kind. There are plenty more smashed up Moabosaurus specimens hiding in the same quarry site – and now all the team needs to do is piece them all back together like the world’s coolest jigsaw puzzle.
“A paleontologist would think of Moab as a gold mine of dinosaur bones,” Britt added. “Sure, we could find bones at other places in the world, but we find so many right here in Utah.”