Utah Department of Natural Resources
SALT LAKE CITY — Its accomplishments as a chewing machine and the wrinkly, enlarged scales on the top of its skull are leading a team of paleontologists to dub a newly discovered species of dinosaur "Jeyawati rugoculus."
That would be Zuni for "grinding mouth" and "wrinkle eye."
The team includes James Kirkland, state paleontologist with the Utah Geological Survey, who was among many people who assisted in the excavation and collection of the incomplete skeleton discovered in 1996 in western New Mexico.
The findings related to Jeyawati have been published in the May issue of the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology.
Jeyawati (pronounced HEY-a-WHAT-ee) essentially means "grinding mouth." Rugoculus comes from the Latin words ruga and oculus, meaning "wrinkle eye," which describes a unique feature of the new species.
The dinosaur comes from rocks that preserve a swampy forest ecosystem that thrived near the shore of a vast inland sea 91 million years ago.
Jeyawati is a member of an assemblage of dinosaurs and other animals that was totally unknown 15 years ago and was featured in the Discovery Channel documentary "When Dinosaurs Roamed America" in 2001.
Dinosaurs that coexisted with Jeyawati include Zuniceratops, the earliest known North American horned dinosaur, and Nothronychus, a strange herbivorous beast belonging to a lineage that, until the discovery of Nothronychus, was known only from Asia. Jeyawati adds another character to the story of North America's dinosaurs.
The partial skull and other fragments of Jeyawati were discovered by paleontologist Douglas Wolfe, principal investigator of the Zuni Basin Paleontological Project; his wife, Hazel; and their son, Christopher.
In 2006, senior author Andrew McDonald, then an undergraduate geology student at the University of Nebraska at Lincoln under the supervision of David Loope, began a project to describe the fossil. McDonald's analysis revealed that the bones were sufficiently distinct from those of other dinosaurs to warrant the naming of a newly discovered species.
A doctoral student now, McDonald is working with others in a Utah Geological Survey project to name other dinosaurs that are related to Jeyawati and found in east central Utah.
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