No, this isn't Jurassic Park. Researchers at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine with help from an amateur fossil hunter in College Park, Md., have described the fossil of an armored dinosaur hatchling. It is the youngest nodosaur ever discovered, and a founder of a new genus and species that lived approximately 110 million years ago during the Early Cretaceous Era. Nodosaurs have been found in diverse locations worldwide, but they've rarely been found in the United States. The findings are published in the September 9 issue of the Journal of Paleontology.
"Now we can learn about the development of limbs and the development of skulls early on in a dinosaur's life," says David Weishampel, Ph.D., a professor of anatomy at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. "The very small size also reveals that there was a nearby nesting area or rookery, since it couldn't have wandered far from where it hatched. We have the opportunity to find out about dinosaur parenting and reproductive biology, as well as more about the lives of Maryland dinosaurs in general."
The fossil was discovered in 1997 by Ray Stanford, a dinosaur tracker who often spent time looking for fossils close to his home; this time he was searching a creek bed after an extensive flood.
Stanford identified it as a nodosaur and called Weishampel, a paleontologist and expert in dinosaur systematics. Weishampel and his colleagues established the fossil's identity as a nodosaur by identifying a distinctive pattern of bumps and grooves on the skull. They then did a computer analysis of the skull shape, comparing its proportions to those of ten skulls from different species of ankylosaurs, the group that contains nodosaurs. They found that this dinosaur was closely related to some of the nodosaur species, although it had a shorter snout overall than the others. Comparative measurements enabled them to designate a new species, Propanoplosaurus marylandic
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