Although the fossil remains were discovered in 1996, it has only now been confirmed that the species is unique. Jeyawati is a member of an assemblage of dinosaurs and other animals unknown as recently as 15 years ago.
McDonald began his classification of the find while a student at the University of Nebraska, before completing the work with Peter Dodson, professor of anatomy and paleontontology in the schools of Veterinary Medicine and Arts and Sciences at Penn.
"From looking at the more complete remains of species related to Jeyawati, we can make several assumptions," McDonald said, "including that the creature probably walked on all fours but was also capable of rearing up on two legs."
The bones now reside at the Arizona Museum of Natural History, where specimens of other dinosaurs uncovered in this region are also located.
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.
The partial skull and other fragments of Jeyawati were discovered by paleontologist Douglas Wolfe, principal investigator of the Zuni Basin Paleontological Project. Subsequent excavation and collection was carried out for 13 years with the aid of James Kirkland, state paleontologist with the Utah Geological Survey, and volunteers from the Southwest Paleontological Society, among others.
In 2006, McDonald, then an undergraduate geology student, began a project to describe the fossil. The analysis revealed that the bones were sufficiently distinct from those of other dinosaurs to warrant the naming of a new species.
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University of Pennsylvania