Discovery suggests a nesting site for dinosaurs in early Cretaceous
DALLAS (SMU) – There’s a new Texas dinosaur on the books.
SMU postdoctoral fellow Kate Andrzejewski, with University paleontologists Dale Winkler and Louis Jacobs, have identified Convolosaurus marri from fossils collected at Proctor Lake, southwest of Fort Worth.
Remnants of several dinosaurs were first found at the Comanche County lake site in 1985, and most of the fossils had been stored for years in the Shuler Museum of Paleontology at SMU. But it wasn’t until Andrzejewski, Winkler and Jacobs examined the fossils more recently that the new dinosaur was identified.
“Convolosaurus is an amazing discovery,” said Andrzejewski, whose findings were published in March in the journal PLOS ONE. “Not only because it represents a new dinosaur, but its discovery also provides unique insight into dinosaur behavior during the early Cretaceous.”
Convolosaurus marri is on view at the Perot Museum of Nature and Science in the T. Boone Pickens Life Then and Now Hall as “Proctor Lake Ornithopod.” The newly identified dinosaur was named in honor of Ray H. Marr, an SMU alumnus who is president of Marr Oil & Gas LTD and a strong supporter of SMU students.
C. marri belongs to a family of herbivorous dinosaurs called ornithopods, which are known for their bird-like stance on two legs. C. marri is believed to have been an agile and fairly small creature.
“Later members of that group became much larger and would graze on all four legs earning them the nickname ‘the cows of the Cretaceous,’” Andrzejewski said.
Andrzejewski and Dale A. Winkler, senior research fellow for ISEM at SMU, and Louis L. Jacobs, professor emeritus of Earth Sciences at SMU, were able to look at fossils from 29 different individuals that were ultimately identified as C. marri. Because of the size distribution of the fossils, it is likely the dinosaurs were a mix of recently-hatched dinosaurs and older juveniles.
“This indicates individuals grouped together after hatching and may have flocked together for protection from predators, which is where this dinosaur got its name,” Andrezejewski said. “Convolosaurus means ‘flocking lizard.’”
The collection of C. marri fossils discovered together also indicate that these dinosaurs kept occupying the same spot over time.
“However, almost all of the fossils found at this site represent Convolosaurus, with only one tooth belonging to a small carnivorous dinosaur and one skeleton of a small reptile, which is part of the same family as a crocodile.”
Furthermore, none of the bones from Convolosaurus contain any indications that they were eaten or even scavenged upon,” Andrzejewski noted. “This suggests that this dinosaur found a safe haven and perhaps used it to raise their young and thrive in a world filled with challenges – from droughts to terrifying carnivorous dinosaurs.”
It has long been suspected that there was a “nesting site” at the place where the remnants of C. marri were found, although no eggshells have yet been found.
“The discovery of Convolosaurus certainly tells an interesting and incredible story of life during the early Cretaceous of Texas,” said Andrzejewski.