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He lived almost 100 million years ago. It will help us prepare for what lies ahead

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An international team of scientists has discovered a new species of herbivorous dinosaur. He was named Iani Smithi. It lived in what is now the US state of Utah, about 100 million years ago. According to experts, it may be the missing link from the times when the changing climate on our planet caused significant changes in the functioning of dinosaur populations.

Dinosaur remains were found in 2014 within the Cedar Mountain Formation in eastern Utah. There, researchers discovered most of the juvenile’s skeleton, including the skull, vertebrae and limbs. The dinosaur was named Iani smithi – in honor of the Roman god with two faces, Janus, who was the patron of all beginnings and changes, the guardian of doors, gates, passages and bridges, as well as agreements and alliances.

Scientists from North Carolina State University and the University of Minnesota in the US and Stellenbosch University in South Africa published in early June conclusions from the analysis of fossils, including the adaptation of this dinosaur to the environment. An article on this topic was published in the journal “PLOS One”.

Dinosaur Iani Smithi

The animal was classified as an early ornithopod, or avian dinosaur – a group from which the more well-known duck-billed dinosaurs (hadrosaurs), such as Parasaurolophus and Edmontosaurus, originated. Iani smithi lived in the Middle Cretaceous period, about 100 million years ago. It had a strong jaw with teeth designed for chewing hard plant material. The Middle Cretaceous was a time of great change that strongly affected the dinosaur population. The increasing amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere caused the Earth’s temperature to rise and sea levels to rise, thus limiting the land area where dinosaurs could live. It was so warm that rainforests began to grow at the poles, and the seashores were covered with flowers. In North America, the powerful herbivorous sauropods began to disappear along with predators such as allosaurs. During the same period, smaller herbivores, such as duckbills and ceratopsians, as well as theropods and oviraptors, arrived from Asia.

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“The better we understand how these climate changes affected these ancient animals, the better prepared we can be for what we face in the future,” said Professor Lindsay Zanno of North Carolina State University, head of North Carolina’s division of paleontology. Museum of Natural Sciences and lead author of the article.

“May symbolize a changing planet”

Iani smithi is unique not only because it is new to the species, but also because its remains are rarely found and because of its position in history.

Scientists assessed that finding the fossil was exceptional luck. Previously, here and there they had found single teeth that might have belonged to this species, but they hadn’t expected to find a whole skeleton.

‘Retrieving a nearly complete skull was invaluable in putting the story together,’ said Professor Zanno. According to her, Iani may have been the last member of a line of dinosaurs that dominated North America at the time and were eventually supplanted by duckbill dinosaurs. “Iani lived during those times, so it can really symbolize a changing planet,” added the researcher.

3D reconstruction of Iani smithi’s skullZanno et al., PLOS One

Main photo source: Lindsay Zanno, Twitter

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