February 23, 2011

New Dinosaur Named ‘Thunder Thighs’

Researchers retrieved bones from two incomplete skeletons of an adult and juvenile dinosaur from a previously looted quarry in Utah. Named Brontomerus mcintoshi, this animal roamed inland areas of the Early Cretaceous Period, about 110 million years ago, AFP is reporting.

"Brontomerus" means "thunder thighs", while "mcintoshi" is in honor of John McIntosh, a retired US physicist, dinosaur hobbyist and world authority on sauropods. The animals had a uniquely shaped hip bone, which was unusually large when compared to similar long-necked sauropod dinosaurs like the Diplodocus and Brachiosaurus.

The larger specimen is believed to be the mother of the younger and would have weighed around six tons, about the size of a large elephant while the smaller specimen would have been the size of a pony.

Researchers classified the new genus based on bones from the shoulder, hip, ribs, vertebrae and some unidentifiable fragments. The hip bone shape indicates that the animal would likely have had the largest leg muscles of any dinosaur in the sauropod family.

Assistant professor of anatomy at the Western University of Health Sciences in Pomona, California, Doctor Matt Wedel tells AFP: "It's possible that Brontomerus mcintoshi was more athletic than most other sauropods."

It is believed that Thunder Thighs could deliver a powerful kick with nearly three times as  much force as similar-sized sauropods, a weapon that males may also have inflicted upon each other when fighting over females, researchers said.

"It is well established that far from being swamp-bound hippo-like animals, sauropods preferred drier, upland areas. So perhaps Brontomerus lived in rough, hilly terrain and the powerful leg muscles were a sort of dinosaur four-wheel drive," Wedel continued.

"Brontomerus mcintoshi is a charismatic dinosaur and an exciting discovery," said Mike Taylor, a researcher in the Department of Earth Sciences at University College London. "When we recognized the weird shape of the hip, we wondered what its significance might be, but we concluded that kicking was the most likely."

The new species is described in a paper published in the journal Acta Palaeontologica Polonica.


Image 1: The life restoration was executed by Francisco Gasc³ under the direction of Mike Taylor and Matt Wedel.

Image 2: This skeletal inventory shows (in white) which are the known bones. The remaining, grey, bones are filled in from a reconstruction of the well-known related dinosaur, Camarasaurus. The preserved bones are enough to give us a good idea of the size of the adult animal -- rather larger than the biggest modern elephants. Credit: Mike Taylor


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