Two weeks ago (though I’ve just heard about it today), paleontologists published a report that they had discovered a new species of dinosaur which inhabited eastern North America during the late Cretaceous Period. Dinosaur fossils from this region are extremely rare, and so any discovery is bound to generate excitement. I’m certain that paleontologist and fello paleo-blogger Chase Brownstein, who is a specialist in eastern North America during the Mesozoic Era, will be geeking out about this discovery very shortly, if he hasn’t been already.
The creature was named Eotrachodon orientalis, “the dawn Trachodon of the East”. It lived in Alabama 83 million years ago, and measured about 25 feet long. Hadrosaurs had only appeared a few million years earlier, so Eotrachodon would have been one of the earliest hadrosaurs not only in North America but globally. Phylogenics suggest that it was a sister taxon of the family Saurolophidae, meaning that it was only slightly more evolved than the most basic hadrosaurs. It is also noteworthy for being found with a mostly intact skull, which gives us a good look as to how an early hadrosaur would have appeared. Contrary to the name “duck bill”, Eotrachodon did not have a broad flat duck-like skull. Instead, its skull was deep with a rounded nose. The fossilized remains, consisting of a partial skeleton and most of the skull, were discovered in 2014 in a creek not far from the city of Montgomery, Alabama.
That fact in itself explains much of why so few dinosaur bones have been found east of the Mississippi River – so much land is covered with cities, farms, highways, and other forms of human development. This significantly limits where a person can dig, and often, the places where you CAN dig don’t contain dinosaur fossils.
For more info, see here:
Albert Prieto-Marquez, et al (2016). “A primitive hadrosaurid from southeastern North America and the origin and early evolution of ‘duck-billed’ dinosaurs”. Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology, published online January 13, 2016; doi: 10.1080/02724634.2015.1054495. http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/02724634.2015.1054495?journalCode=ujvp20.