Penn Researcher Identifies New Dinosaur
A University of Pennsylvania doctoral researcher has identified a previously unknown species of dinosaur — a member of the velociraptor family that was probably particularly good at sniffing out its prey.
Steven Jasinski, a doctoral student in Penn’s School of Arts & Sciences’ Department of Earth and and Environmental Science, reported his discovery of Saurornitholestes sullivani this month in the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science Bulletin.
“It’s something I’m very happy with and proud of,” Jasinski said by phone from Harrisburg, where he also serves as acting curator of paleontology and geology at the State Museum of Pennsylvania.
The discovery was a bit of an accident, Jasinski said. He was looking through raptor specimens when he discovered one whose skull was different from the others. Closer examination revealed a new, previously unidentified species.
“I wasn’t directly trying to” discover a new species, Jasinski said. But the review revealed “that some things didn’t belong to the other.”
Anybody who has watched Jurassic Park knows raptors are scary predators. The sullivani, Jasinksi says, are distinguished by an unusually large area of the skull corresponding to the brain’s olfactory bulb. Simply put: The new dino was probably really great at smelling the approach of dinner.
“It shows us that this dinosour … had better senses that we realized,” Jasinski said of his discovery. “We already knew that some of them were good predators — some of them were even better than we thought.”
Jasinski, as you might imagine, can be pretty popular with dino-loving kids who come to the museum, especially when he’s giving personal tours and letting youngsters see the Marshalls Creek Mastodon up close for the first time.
“In a lot of ways,” he said, “I can behave like a kid.”
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