Talking ‘Bout An Evolution: Discovery of Dinosaur Species Fills Gap

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Fossil bones, Dinosaur National Monument

The Land Before Time series may need to make room for a new character.

The daemonosaurus chauliodus, whose fossilized skull and neck vertebrae were discovered at Ghost Ranch in New Mexico, offers an intermediate link between two previously-categorized dinosaur species. A team of scientists from Smithsonian Institution discovered the fossils and published their findings in a journal Wednesday.

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The buck-toothed predator walked on its hind legs and was about the size of a dog, scientists say. The first part of its name originated from the word daemon, or “supernatural being” — an allusion to Ghost Ranch. The chauliodus comes from the Greek word for “buck toothed,” referring to the reptile’s large front teeth. Scientists say that the animal has large eyes, possibly used for nighttime prowling.

The dinosaur’s buck teeth indicate that it was more advanced than prior predators that roamed during the Triassic period. But the small opening in the snout between the nostril and the eye socket was more characteristic of early dinosaurs than later species, like the Tyrannosaurus Rex.

The daemonosaurus chauliodus is thought to have filled the gap between the two, Hans Sues, the curator of vertebrate paleontology at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History and lead author of the study, told Wired.

Much remains to be known about the species that lived about 205 million years ago. Its discovery filled a large gap in the fossil record that scientists had previously left blank, but some features, like its unusually short snout and uniquely-shaped teeth, remain puzzling.

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