Scientists Dig Up New Dinosaurs
Recent discoveries, including that of the fierce Utahraptor, have helped us build our knowledge of dinosaurs.
- Grades: 3–5
Adapted from Scholastic News, Sean McCollum, Edition 4, March 5, 1993
Scientists recently found the bones of a dinosaur fiercer than Tyrannosaurus rex. Other fossil-finders dug up the skeleton of one of the first dinosaurs ever to roam the Earth.
Why are dinosaurs making such big news 65 million years after they became extinct? Dr. James Kirkland is a scientist who studies fossils. "There's new dinosaur research going on all over the world," he told SN. In the past, some governments blocked dinosaur research in their countries. In other places, wars kept research from getting done. That is changing now.
Digging For Dinos
In 1991, Dr. Kirkland was part of a team hunting for dinosaur fossils in Utah. While they were digging up one skeleton, a worker found a giant claw. "It was the largest I had ever seen, "Dr. Kirkland told SN. The claw belonged to a new kind of dinosaur. They named it Utahraptor (YEW-tah-RAP-ter).
Scientists can tell a lot about how a dinosaur lived by studying its bones. They think Utahraptor was about 20 feet long and weighed 1,500 pounds. The way its legs were built tells scientists that Utahraptor was a good runner. And its 15-inch claws show that it was a killer. "This killer claw was an incredibly powerful cutting tool," Dr. Kirkland says. That's why Utahraptor got the nickname "superslasher." Dr. Kirkland thinks Utahraptor would have used its claws to kick and slash other dinosaurs.
Utahraptor isn't the only exciting fossil found recently. In 1991 in South America Dr. Paul Sereno dug up the of one of the first dinosaurs and named it Eoraptor (EE-oh-RAP-ter). "Eoraptor gave us a picture of what the earliest dinosaurs were like. Dr. Sereno says. It was only about the size of a goose. Scientists think it lived about 225 million years ago.
Each new fossil gives scientists new clues about dinosaurs and how they lived. "New information is popping up all the time," says Dr. Kirkland. He expects many more exciting dinosaur discoveries in the years to come.