New Dinosaur Species: 'Action-Related' Evidence Surprises (Video)

By Matthew Klickstein , Mar 01, 2013 12:44 PM EST

Fossils of a new species of herbivorous dinosaur were discovered by an associate professor from a South Dakota School of Mines & Technology and his team. Clint Boyd, Ph.D published his team's findings on Thursday, Feb. 28, revealing evidence of prehistoric crocodyliforms feeding on the newly discovered small dinosaurs.

Boyd and his team first discovered that a plant-eating baby ornithopod dinosaur was the favorite food of crocodyliforms — a now-extinct forebear to crocodiles — before realizing the ornithopod is in fact an entirely new species of dinosaur.

The new ornithopod dinosaur is yet to be named, according to the report by Science Daily.

Boyd's paper was published in the online journal PLOS ONE and explains that the evidence — found in what is today known as Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in southern Utah — dates back to the end of the dinos' epoch, the Cretaceous period.

Stephanie K. Drumheller, of the University of Iowa and the University of Tennessee, and Terry A. Gates, of North Carolina State University and the Natural History Museum of Utah, co-authored the paper with Boyd.

The fossil evidence is also groundbreaking for another reason: Until now, paleontologists have almost always found direct evidence only of "very large crocodyliforms" interacting with "very large dinosaurs," according to a press release by the South Dakota School of Mines & Technology.

"It's not often that you get events from the fossil record that are action-related," says Boyd in the release. "A lot of times you find material in close association or you can find some feeding marks or traces on the outside of the bone and you can hypothesize that maybe it was a certain animal doing this, but this was only the second time we have really good definitive evidence of a crocodyliform feeding on a prey animal and in this case an ornithischian dinosaur."

Ornithischian or ornithopod dinosaurs are so named for their characteristic bird-like three-toed feet. Ornithopod in fact means "bird feet" (Greek) and those dinos in its category started out small before evolving into one of the most successful herbivores of the Cretaceous world, eventually dominating North America.

They rose to the heights of becoming duck-billed before being totally wiped out by the Cretaceous-Paleogene event whose toll included all non-avian dinosaurs.

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