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New dinosaur found with skin impressions!!

New dinosaur found with skin impressions

Lisa Marie

NEW YORK (April 1, 1997) -- Scientists announced today the discovery of a
new theropod found with the rarest of the rare, actual skin impressions.

The dinosaur was found in late August, 1996, on the banks of the Blue River
near Memphis, Tennessee.  It was found by two teenagers who stumbled upon
the skeleton eroding from the northern bank.

"We was just out bein' wild in the country, when we decided to take shelter
under an embankment from the hard Kentucky rain," one of the boys said.  "We
found what we thought was concrete, but there was a bone stickin' out of it.
My momma didn't raise no fool, so I lit out of there and called the sheriff
right away."

The local sheriff, Vernon Smith, rushed to the site with the department's
trusted hound dog, just in case he had to search for more of what he thought
would be a murdered body.  As luck would have it, Sheriff Smith is a good
friend of renowned paleontologist Dr. Thomas J. Hutz of the University of
Montana, who tagged along.  Dr. Hutz recognized the bone immediately as a
dinosaur bone.

"When I first saw the bone, I was all shook up," Dr. Hutz explained.  "It
was clearly poking out of an ash deposit, probably from a sudden local
volcanic eruption that caught the animal by surprise.  It was very fine
grained ash, and I thought some skin impressions might have been preserved."

Dr. Hutz secured the fossil for the Montana University Natural History
Museum, and prepared it for transport.  It was trucked in two massive pieces
to Dr. Hutz's lab, a monumental task requiring two diesel trucks, a
sky-crane, and a good luck charm to "ensure my wish came true," said Dr.
Hutz.  Dr. Hutz's wish for good skin impressions indeed came true, to a
degree that astonished everybody.

The volcanic ash clearly preserved the entire integument of the dinosaur.
Its skin was completely smooth, with bony osteoderms (small bones embedded
in the skin) arranged in regular patterns around the body.  Impressions
around the eyes suggest that they were covered in a dark, horny protective
sheath in life.  Most incredible of all was a thick tuft of hairlike
feathers about the head and neck.

The impressions of feathers is the fourth such fossil find.  Dinosaur
paleontologists had suspected for years that dinosaurs had feathers due to
their close relationship with birds, but no feather impressions had been
found in over two centuries of digging.  Then, three of the four finds came
in August of last year, with the fourth being found a year earlier.

Dr. Alan Fudd, a noted ornithologist that is opposed to the dinosaurian
ancestry of birds, was asked what he thought of this incredible new find.
Even though the discovery of the feather impressions had not yet been made
public, the scientist responded by screaming "Birds are not dinosaurs,"
rushing into a corner, and sucking his thumb while sobbing hysterically, his
thoughts known only to him.

Dr. Hutz describes the dinosaur as a basal tyrannosaurid.  "It was slightly
smaller than _T. rex_," he said, "but possessed a huge gut and flaps of skin
on its back and around its belly, for reasons I cannot currently fathom.
It's forelegs were larger than a typical tyrannosaurid's too, and retained
the primitive three fingered hand of other theropods."

Also preserved are the tiny bones of the tongue and larynx, and, using the
skin impressions as a guide, scientists are able to estimate their shape and
size as well.  Using sophisticated software developed at Stanford
University, paleontologists have been able to recreate what they think the
dinosaur sounded like.  "I bet in life this thing's cry would make
everything within a mile shake, rattle and roll," said Dr. Hutz.

Strangest of all are the animal's teeth.  All known theropods were meat
eaters, but the teeth on this dinosaur suggest an omnivorous diet.  "The
shape of the teeth suggest that it ate both plants and animals,"  explained
Dr. Hutz.  "Its favorite food was probably hadrosaurs, the jelly donuts of
the Cretaceous, but given its size and probable appetite, it most likely ate
anything it could sink its teeth into."

Dr. Hutz dates the specimen to the late Cretaceous, some 77 million years
ago.  However, the complete skeleton sheds new light on scraps of material
found elsewhere in the world from previous ages.

"If other material is indeed referable to this animal, then it appears to
have been very widespread and abundant in the early Jurassic.  It then faded
away toward the end of the Jurassic and nearly became extinct in the early
Cretaceous.  It appeared to be experiencing somewhat of a comeback when it
suddenly became extinct."

Scientists have named the animal _Dinosauria rex_, or "king of the
dinosaurs."  When asked why they chose this name when it is smaller than its
larger cousin _T. rex_, Dr. Hutz responded "That's such an easy question to
ask me.  When I look at it, the name just feels so right.  When it came to
dinosaurs, this animal was truly the king."

To view an artist's conception of the dinosaur and hear its hunting cry, set
your browsers to http://www.dinosauria.com/jdp/news/rex2.htm

Copyright 1997 by Jeff Poling

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