Had Utah’s newest dinosaur not gone extinct, it might have evolved into a highly intelligent creature, scientists speculate.
“Its skull is six times larger than other dinosaurs,” said Scott Foss, regional paleontologist with the Bureau of Land Management.
But Geminiraptor suarezarum’s large brain case is not its only unique feature. It had an inflatable upper jaw bone and feathers on its arms and legs and, as Utah’s eighth new dinosaur species of the year, it’s a record breaker, too.
“One [find] is unusual, eight is outstanding,” said Scott Foss, regional paleontologist with the Bureau of Land Management, of the newest creature featured in a paper published Wednesday in the online journal PLoS ONE.
The upper jaw bone of the meat-eating creature, small enough to fit in the palm of the hand, was discovered in 2004 in a formation in the Crystal Geyser area near Green River, where it lived 125 million years ago. It is the oldest species found in North America belonging to the “raptor-like” troodon group of dinosaurs.
Foss said worldwide there about 700 named dinosaurs.
“This string of dinosaur descriptions means that a full one percent of all known dinosaur species were described from lands in Utah during 2010,” said Foss. “That’s what’s interesting and fun about this.”
Seven of the new species were found on BLM land and one in Dinosaur National Monument.
State paleontologist Jim Kirkland, who co-authored the paper and was at the site when the discovery was made, said the jawbone is hollow and could be inflated “like a balloon.”
Kirkland said he is unaware of such a characteristic in other fossilized dinosaurs and can only speculate on its purpose.