Credits: University of Pennsylvania
Through the cycads and gingkoes of the floodplains, not far from the Sundance Sea, strode the 50-foot-long Suuwassea, a plant-eating dinosaur with a whip-like tail and an anomalous second hole in its skull destined to puzzle paleontologists in 150 million years. According to researchers at the University of Pennsylvania, Suuwassea emilieae (pronounced SOO-oo-WAH-see-uh eh-MEE-LEE-aye) is a smaller relative of Diplodocus and Apatosaurus and is the first named sauropod dinosaur from the Jurassic of southern Montana. Their findings currently appear in the journal Acta Paleontologica Polonica
"Suuwassea is the first unequivocal new sauropod from the Morrison Formation a 150-million-year-old geological formation extending from New Mexico to Montana in more than a century. It has a number of distinguishing features, but the most striking is this second hole in its skull, a feature we have never seen before in a North American dinosaur," said Peter Dodson, senior author and professor of anatomy at Penn School of Veterinary Medicine and professor in the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences. "While its Diplodocus relatives have a single hole on the top of the skull related to the nasal cavity, paleontologists have yet to come up with a plausible use for this second hole."
The name Suuwassea comes from the Native American Crow word meaning "ancient thunder" and also a nod to "thunder lizard," the original nickname of the dinosaur now known as Apatosaurus. Emilieae is a reference to the late Emilie deHellebranth, whose financial support funded the dinosaur excavation.
Greg Lester | University of Pennsylvania
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