Jan. 20, 1999 DALLAS (SMU) -- The world's oldest and most primitive duck-billed dinosaur, dating back more than 95.5 million years, has been discovered by paleontologist Jason Head of the Department of Geological Sciences in Southern Methodist University's Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences.
Discovery of the specimen near Flower Mound in North Central Texas will require that dinosaur researchers re-think the long-held notion that duck-billed dinosaurs originated in eastern Asia more than 90 million years ago, predicted Head, whose findings are being published in the current issue of the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology.
"This makes North America a good candidate as the place of origin for duck-billed dinosaurs," said Head.
The dinosaur, named Protohadros byrdi, belongs to a family of plant-eaters known as hadrosaurs that lasted for about 30 million years before becoming extinct at the end of the Cretaceous Period about 65 million years ago. The skull, ribs and feet of Head's specimen were found in early 1994 by Dallas Paleontological Society member Gary Byrd as he was examining a road cut in Flower Mound. Byrd and a team from SMU excavated the remains.
Head did the analysis of the remains. The specimen is thought to have been almost fully grown and was about 15-20 feet long and 6 feet high at the shoulder. It is thought to have walked on both four and two legs and had a complex way of chewing its food. A cause of death could not be determined. At the time the protohadros was alive, a shallow seaway existed through the middle of North America, and North Texas was a wooded marsh, similar to present-day South Louisiana.
Head grew up in Walled Lake, Mich., and received a Bachelor of Science degree in biology from the University of Michigan in 1995. He received a Master of Science degree in geology from SMU in 1997 and is working on his Ph.D.
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