Montana researcher co-authors Science article on Niger dinosaurs

November 10, 1999

BOZEMAN, MONT--A Bozeman, Mont., researcher who's studied dinosaur fossils in Morocco, Argentina and Niger co-authored a paper that appears in the Nov. 12, 1999 issue of Science.

David Varricchio, a research associate at the Museum of the Rockies at Montana State University, was one of 11 scientists who contributed to the article. It is titled "Cretaceous Sauropods from the Sahara and the Uneven Rate of Skeletal Evolution Among Dinosaurs."

The article resulted from a 1997 expedition to Niger, an African country north of Nigeria. The participants found information that "provides the first quantitative assessment of rates of skeletal changes among dinosaurs," according to the Science article. "... Some lineages, such as that leading to Jobaria, remained relatively static for tens of millions of years, whereas others changed rapidly. Considerable variation in the rate of skeletal change appears to have been the norm in dinosaur evolution."

The Niger expedition was Varricchio's third in three years with Paul Sereno of the University of Chicago. Sereno led a team to Morocco in 1995 and Argentina in 1996. Varricchio's role was to interpret the geological setting and look at how the fossils were preserved.

"I was in charge of gathering data on where the fossils were and how they might have gotten there," Varricchio said. "My responsibilties included mapping the bones and skeletons within the quarries, as well as describing the sediments from which they came. This is important in the interpretation of ancient environments."

Sereno wants to understand how dinosaur bones are distributed and how the dinosaurs evolved as the continents split, Varricchio said. That curiosity led him to dinosaur beds that haven't been well-studied.

The most abundant fossils at the Niger site were Jobaria, Varricchio said. They were large dinosaurs that ate plants and inspired legends among the local residents who found their bones.

"Jobaria are very ordinary-looking," Varricchio explained. "It's exciting because it's almost too ordinary looking for the time it is in. It is kind of like a relic. It looks like it should have existed 40 million years before it did."

Other Niger fossils came from slightly younger bone beds. The most common one there, the Nigersaurus, had a muzzle that was strangely different from other dinosaurs. It was squared off instead of pointed.

"The new fossils provide a framework for understanding the history of African sauropods during the Cretaceous Period," the Science article said.
-end-


Montana State University

Related Dinosaurs Articles from Brightsurf:

Ireland's only dinosaurs discovered in antrim
The only dinosaur bones ever found on the island of Ireland have been formally confirmed for the first time by a team of experts from the University of Portsmouth and Queen's University Belfast, led by Dr Mike Simms, a curator and palaeontologist at National Museums NI.

Baby dinosaurs were 'little adults'
Paleontologists at the University of Bonn (Germany) have described for the first time an almost complete skeleton of a juvenile Plateosaurus and discovered that it looked very similar to its parents even at a young age.

Bat-winged dinosaurs that could glide
Despite having bat-like wings, two small dinosaurs, Yi and Ambopteryx, struggled to fly, only managing to glide clumsily between the trees where they lived, according to a new study led by an international team of researchers, including McGill University Professor Hans Larsson.

Some dinosaurs could fly before they were birds
New research using the most comprehensive study of feathered dinosaurs and early birds has revised the evolutionary relationships of dinosaurs at the origin of birds.

Tracking Australia's gigantic carnivorous dinosaurs
North America had the T. rex, South America had the Giganotosaurus and Africa the Spinosaurus - now evidence shows Australia had gigantic predatory dinosaurs.

Ancient crocodiles walked on two legs like dinosaurs
An international research team has been stunned to discover that some species of ancient crocodiles walked on their two hind legs like dinosaurs and measured over three metres in length.

Finding a genus home for Alaska's dinosaurs
A re-analysis of dinosaur skulls from northern Alaska suggests they belong to a genus Edmontosaurus, and not to the genus recently proposed by scientists in 2015.

Can we really tell male and female dinosaurs apart?
Scientists worldwide have long debated our ability to identify male and female dinosaurs.

In death of dinosaurs, it was all about the asteroid -- not volcanoes
Volcanic activity did not play a direct role in the mass extinction event that killed the dinosaurs, according to an international, Yale-led team of researchers.

Discriminating diets of meat-eating dinosaurs
A big problem with dinosaurs is that there seem to be too many meat-eaters.

Read More: Dinosaurs News and Dinosaurs Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.