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Utah gives up new dino species

Duck billed, and a danger to all plants

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Paleontological digging among the rocks of Utah has revealed a new species of dinosaur.

The beast, dubbed Gryposaurus monumentensis, is a duck-billed creature dating back 75m years to the late Cretaceous period. It would have been a vegetarian, able to consume just about anything that could grow. According to Terry Gates, lead author of a paper detailing the find: "No plant stood a chance against G. monumentensis".

G. monumentensis would have had up to 300 teeth, ready to tear into the nearest tasty-looking leaf. But it would also have had backup teeth ready to go, the researchers explain, meaning that it could have had as many as 800 teeth in its skull at any one time.

"It was capable of eating most any plant it wanted to," Gates notes, "although much more evidence is needed before we can hypothesise on its dietary preferences."

A Pennsylvania furniture maker called Duncan Everhart is credited with finding the skull way back in 2002, but it wasn't until 2005 that researchers from the Utah Natural History Museum realised the significance of the discovery.

The skull was originally missing fragments from the nose region, but a store of bones in the California museum allowed the team to confirm that the find was a new species.

The dinosaur is one of several new species to have been dug up from this particular region, known as The Grand Staircase. Other locals include a Velociraptor-like carnivore named Hagryphus, a tyrannosaur, and several kinds of horned dinosaurs.

"This is a brand new and extremely important window into the world of dinosaurs," said Scott Sampson, another palaeontologist with the Utah museum. "As each new find such as this new Gryposaur is made," Titus said, "it is placed into the greater context of an entire ecosystem that has remained lost for eons, and is only now coming under scientific scrutiny." ®

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