New Iguanodontian Dinosaur Iani smithi Discovered In Utah, USA

A new iguanodontian dinosaur has recently been named. Iani smithi was discovered in the Cedar Mountain Formation, a rock formation located in eastern Utah, USA.

Read on to find out more about the dinosaur and its discovery…


Iani smithi

A team of paleontologists has recently announced the discovery of a new iguanodontian dinosaur, Iani smithi, in a paper published in Plos One (source).

The team’s analysis identified the four-meter, herbivorous dinosaur as being a new species belonging to Rhabdodontomorpha, a group of iguanodontian dinosaurs previously unknown in North America.

Iani smithi was discovered in the Cedar Mountain Formation of eastern Utah. The specimen, which was found in a layer of the formation known as the Mussentuchit Member, is thought to have walked the Earth around 99 million years ago, near the start of the Late Cretaceous.

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Over the next ten million years, the Cretaceous Thermal Maximum – a period of rising global temperatures and carbon dioxide levels – would reach its peak.

The dinosaur’s name reflects the transitory times in which it lived. The dinosaur’s generic name, Iani, refers to Ianus, or Janus, the Roman god of beginnings and endings, who is usually depicted with two faces. The specific name smithi honors paleontologist Joshua Aaron Smith.

Iani smithi was bipedal (it walked on two legs) and equipped with specialized mouthparts for eating plants. Marking Iani smithi out from related dinosaurs were its unusually powerful jaws, likely an adaptation for eating new types of vegetation; like other iguanodontian dinosaurs, Iani smithi was an herbivore.

Iani smithi Discovery

Iani smithi was described from a single specimen, NCSM 29373, found in 2014. From the well-preserved partial skeleton, which included a nearly intact skull, researchers were able to identify it as being a new species in the group Rhabdodontomorpha, the first of its kind to be found in the Americas. (It has recently been suggested that Tenontosaurus, another North American dinosaur, may also belong to this group.)

When living, the dinosaur had an estimated length of just under 4 m. however, because the specimen is believed to be a juvenile, the species’ adult length may have been greater.

Rhabdodontomorpha

Rhabdodontomorpha is a clade of ornithopod dinosaurs that existed during the Late Cretaceous period, approximately between 100 to 66 million years ago. These dinosaurs are known for their distinct dental structures, with Rhabdodontid teeth featuring unique surfaces for grinding food, hence the name "Rhabdodon" derived from Greek, meaning "fluted tooth".

They have been mostly discovered in Europe, but some remains have been found in other parts of the world. These dinosaurs were typically medium-sized and are characterized by their bipedal stance, long tails, and herbivorous diet.

Rhabdodontomorphs were part of the larger group known as Ornithopoda, which also includes well-known dinosaurs like Iguanodon and the duck-billed hadrosaurs.

Rhabdodontomorphs, however, differed in their smaller size, distinct dental morphology, and in other skeletal characteristics. Members of this clade such as Rhabdodon and Zalmoxes were relatively small compared to many of their ornithopod relatives, with adults typically ranging from about 1.5 to 5 meters in length.

Other Dinosaurs Found In The Cedar Mountain Formation

The Cedar Mountain Formation, found in eastern Utah in the United States, is one of the most important sources of Early Cretaceous dinosaur fossils in North America. This geological formation spans from around 127 to 98 million years ago, giving researchers a snapshot of a diverse range of dinosaur species that lived during that time.

Several new and significant dinosaurs have been discovered in the formation, including theropods, sauropodomorphs, and ornithopods.

Among the most notable discoveries from the Cedar Mountain Formation is Utahraptor, a large dromaeosaurid theropod that stood roughly twice the height of a human. The dinosaur gained fame for its large size and the deadly claw on each of its hind feet.

Another significant dinosaur from this formation is the herbivorous iguanodont, Tenontosaurus, found in large numbers and believed to have been a primary food source for Utahraptor.

Additionally, the Cedar Mountain Formation has also yielded a plethora of sauropodomorphs, including the long-necked dinosaurs like Cedarosaurus, Abydosaurus, and the enormous Sauroposeidon.


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