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225 Million-Year-Old Dinosuar Found in New Mexico
Scientists Call 225 Million-Year-Old Dinosaur Remains Earliest in N. America
By JANE E. ALLEN
October 25, 1994
SEATTLE (AP) - Teeth and bones scattered around a hilly area in west-central New
Mexico make up the most complete and earliest North American dinosaur remains,
dating from about 225 million years ago, scientists said.
The fossils belonged to a 3-foot-long theropod, a meat-eater that ran on its
two hind legs and likely fed on small creatures like lizards, said Andrew B.
Heckert, a University of New Mexico graduate student.
The first of the remains were discovered in 1992 by Spencer G. Lucas, of the New
Mexico Museum of Natural History in Albuquerque. Heckert, who continues to pick
through debris at the site for more fossils, presented photographs of the
findings on Monday, the first day of the Geological Society of America annual
They show skull fragments, a serrated tooth, vertebrae, forelimb bones, parts of
the pelvis and hindlimb bones retrieved from the Bluewater Creek formation near
Fort Wingate, N.M., part of a group of ancient river deposits through the
The theropod, which lived during the Carnian Age, late in the Triassic Period,
had short front legs and longer back legs, with a tail that probably extended
about half its body length, Heckert said.
"It was fairly quick, a little runner. We think it has a slightly different hip
structure, which we believe is more advanced than some of the other" dinosaurs.
The same area near Fort Wingate has yielded footprints from a turkey-sized
vegetarian dinosaur that also dates to 225 million years ago, said Stephen
Hasiotis, a paleontologist at the University of Colorado and U.S. Geological
Survey in Denver.
"It's just one of those areas with the right combination of organisms," Hasiotis
said. "It was a system that had ample water and all sorts of lush vegetation
that could have supported a large range of animals that fed on each other and
the insects and plants."
The turkey-sized dinosaur might have provided the meat-eater with some of its
meals, he suggested.
The vegetarian dinosaur's tracks, discovered in sandstone from the mid-1980s
through 1992, were reported at the Geological Society's May meeting in Durango,
Colo. They were found by Hasiotis and Russell Dubiel of the USGS.
Hasiotis said the two dinosaur discoveries show that "the remains of a smaller,
primitive meat-eating dinosaur coincide with remains of our herbivorous
dinosaur. They have been around and were established in this region earlier than
had been thought."
Scientists disagree about the age of dinosaur remains. Some theorize that
dinosaurs evolved 228 to 230 million years ago. But because the Fort Wingate
footprint evidence corroborates European footprints that French scientists
claimed were 240 million years old, Hasiotis believes "it's more likely that
dinosaurs evolved earlier, at least as early as 240 million years ago."
Hasiotis said dating of remains is done by association with rock formations of
known age, although scientists are looking at a more precise means of
determining age by analyzing individual crystals in volcanic ash deposits.