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Press Release 09-236
Newly Discovered Dinosaur Illuminates Ancient Lineage

Pristine skeletons of carnivorous Tawa hallae shed light on early days of dinosaur evolution

Back to article | Note about images

A reconstruction of the newly discovered Triassic, carnivorous dinosaur, Tawa hallae.

A reconstruction of the newly discovered Triassic, carnivorous dinosaur, Tawa hallae.

Credit: ŠArtwork by Jorge Gonzalez.


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Photo of a scientist unearthing the right hand of Tawa hallae and the words Audio Slideshow.

A team of paleontologists unearths an ancient, meat-eating dinosaur in this audio slideshow.

Credit: Kai McConnell, National Science Foundation

 

Sterling Nesbitt of the University of Texas at Austin discusses a brand new dinosaur unearthed at Ghost Ranch in New Mexico.

Credit: National Science Foundation and University of Texas at Austin

 

Illustration showing how Tawa relates to other early dinosaurs.

Based on an analysis of how Tawa relates to other early dinosaurs, researchers hypothesize that dinosaurs originated in what is now South America, and soon after diverged into ornithischians (like Triceratops), sauropodomorphs (like Apatosaurus) and theropods (like Tyrannosaurus rex), before dispersing across the Triassic world more than 220 million years ago. The theropods evolved into modern-day birds, although Tawa split off from the ancestral branch early on and was not a direct bird ancestor.

Credit: Zina Deretsky, National Science Foundation


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A reconstruction of the Tawa hallae skeleton.

A reconstruction of the Tawa hallae skeleton.

Credit: Sterling Nesbitt


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A reconstruction of the head of the newly discovered Triassic, carnivorous dinosaur, Tawa hallae.

A reconstruction of the head of the newly discovered Triassic, carnivorous dinosaur, Tawa hallae.

Credit: ŠArtwork by Jorge Gonzalez.


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Reconstruction depicting the evolutionary relationships between Tawa and two other dinosaurs.

This reconstruction depicts the evolutionary relationships between Tawa (top left) and two other Triassic carnivorous dinosaurs, Herrerasaurus (bottom left) and Coelophysis (top right). In the lower left corner is a depiction of the Late Triassic globe.

Credit: ŠArtwork by Jorge Gonzalez.


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Photo showing the complete right hand of Tawa hallae.

The complete right hand of Tawa hallae.

Credit: Sterling Nesbitt


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Photo of co-authors Nathan Smith and Sterling Nesbitt digging for fossils at the Ghost Ranch.

Co-authors Nathan Smith and Sterling Nesbitt dig for fossils at the Ghost Ranch dig site in New Mexico.

Credit: David Clark, Dinosaur Hunters LLC


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Photo of co-authors Sterling Nesbitt, Nathan Smith, Alan Turner and Randall Irmis.

Co-authors Sterling Nesbitt, Nathan Smith, Alan Turner and Randall Irmis were filmed for the NSF-supported IMAX film Dinosaurs Alive! The scene above was captured soon after the paleontologists had wrapped a block of sediment containing Tawa fossils in preparation for transport to the American Museum of Natural History.

Credit: David Clark, Dinosaur Hunters LLC


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Photo showing the cliffs west of Ghost Ranch in New Mexico.

The cliffs west of Ghost Ranch in New Mexico.

Credit: Sterling Nesbitt


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Cover of December 11, 2009 journal Science.

The researchers' finding appear in the December 11, 2009 issue of the journal Science.

Credit: Copyright 2009 AAAS


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