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Larry Felder
This rendering of Gryposaurus monumentensis shows its robust jaws that allowed this creature to eat just about any vegetation it stumbled across.

The skull of a new species of duckbill dinosaur, deemed "one of the most magnificent" ever found, was unveiled today in Big Water, Kane County, and the find provides important clues about the evolution of the large plant-eaters.

The Gryposaurus monumentensis, named for Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, is the latest new species of dinosaur to be found in the monument. In a telephone press conference today, experts said the dinosaur was discovered several years ago by the Ramond M. Alf Museum of Paleontology, which is based on a high school campus in Claremont, Calif. Excavations were carried out in 2003 and difficult preparation work on the bones continued after that.

Overseeing the work was then-University of Utah graduate student Terry Gates. Now a paleontologist at the Utah Museum of Natural History on the U. campus, Gates earned his Ph.D. degree this past spring.

Gates explained that other species of the same genus Gryposaurus occurred in Canada and Montana. They were the dominant plant-eaters of the region, including Utah, 74 million years ago during the Cretaceous Era. But only 1 million years later, the time of the new find — also during the Cretaceous Era — the genus was extinct except in the Four Corners area.

Some change in the environment may have been the cause of the rapid change in dinosaurs.

This type of duckbill dinosaur had powerful jaws, making it the cretaceous version of a "weed whacker," said Gates.

In life, the dinosaur was about 30 feet long, including its 10-foot-long tail. The dinosaur stood at least 10 feet tall and boasted a three-foot skull.

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