A team led by the Denver Museum of Nature and Science found the skull of Parazaurolofus in the poor lands of New Mexico.
DENVER – For the first time in nearly 100 years, a team of researchers from the Denver Museum of Nature and Science (DMNS) discovered a dinosaur skull belonging to the tube-clad dinosaur Parasaurolof.
Ecologist Smithsonian Erin Spear, Ph.D. revealed the rare specimen while researching the bad in northwestern New Mexico as part of a DMNS team in 2017, but the discovery was just announced Monday in PeerJ magazine.
RELATED: This map shows wherever fossils have been found in the Denver Subway (so far)
Located deep in the Bisti / De-Na-Zin Desert in New Mexico, only a small part of the skull can be seen on a steep slope of sandstone. Volunteers from the museum, led by Joe Sertic, curator of dinosaurs at DMNS, were surprised to find the intact crest as they carefully cut the specimen out of the sandstone.
> Video above: Fossils found in Colorado detail the first years after the extinction of the dinosaurs.
“Preserving this new skull is spectacular, finally revealing in detail the bones that make up the crest of this amazing dinosaur, known to almost every dinosaur-obsessed child,”
Bone fragments at the site suggest that much of the skeleton may once have been preserved on an ancient sandstone, but only a partial skull, part of the lower jaw and a handful of ribs have survived erosion, according to the DMNS.
The exquisite preservation of the skull, especially the bizarre tube-shaped nasal canal, finally revealed the structure of the crest after decades of disagreement.
“Over the past 100 years, ideas for the purpose of an exaggerated tube crest have ranged from snorkels to super snipers,” said David Evans, president of Temerty in Vertebrate Paleontology and vice president of natural history at the Royal Ontario Museum.
RELATED: A Denver paleontologist finds a “crazy beast” that lived 66 million years ago
“But after decades of research, we now believe that these combs function primarily as sound resonators and visual displays used to communicate within their own kind.”
Despite its extreme morphology, the details of the specimen show that the crest forms similar to the crests of other dinosaur-related ducks.
“This pattern is a wonderful example of amazing creatures that evolved from a predecessor,” Sertic said.
Among the most recognizable dinosaurs, the duck parasauroloph wore an elongated, tube-like crest on its head, containing an internal network of airways.
“Imagine that your nose grows on your face, three meters behind your head, then turns to attach over your eyes. Parasaurolofus breathes through an eight-foot tube before oxygen reaches its head, “said Terry Gates, a paleontologist at North Carolina State University.
Three species of parasauroloph are currently recognized, ranging from Alberta to New Mexico in rocks between 77 and 73.5 million years old.
The new skull belongs to Parasaurolophus cyrtocristatus, previously known from a single specimen collected in the same region of New Mexico in 1923 by the legendary fossil hunter Charles H. Sternberg. Both specimens show a shorter, more curved crest than other species, a feature that may be related to their immaturity at death.
Today, the fruit in northwestern New Mexico, where the skull was found, is dry and sparsely vegetative, a dramatic contrast to the lush lowland bay bays preserved in their rocks. 75 million years ago, when Parasauroloff lived in the region, North America was divided into two land masses by a wide sea route.
The parasauroloph shared lush, subtropical floodplains with other, ruthless savages, a diverse array of horned dinosaurs and early tyrannosaurs, along with many emerging, modern groups of alligators, turtles, and plants.
“Preserving this new skull is spectacular, finally revealing in detail the bones that make up the crest of this amazing dinosaur, known to almost every dinosaur-obsessed child,” Sertic said. “It simply reinforces the importance of protecting our public lands for scientific discoveries.”
For decades, the Parasaurolof family tree has placed the two long, crested species of Parasaurolof (P. walkeri from Alberta and P. tubicen from younger rocks in New Mexico) as the most closely related, although they are divided into more than 1,000 miles (1600 km) and 2.5 million years.
Analysis of additional features of the skull, with the exception of the crest, along with information from other discoveries of Parasaurolof in southern Utah, suggest for the first time that all southern species from New Mexico and Utah may be more closely related than northern you are a cousin. This fits into models seen in other groups of dinosaurs of the same age, including horned dinosaurs.
SUGGESTED VIDEO: Animals and wild animals