When it comes to dinosaur discoveries Mongolia’s Gobi Desert just keeps on giving. ‘Dino Nerds’ are all aflutter over its latest fossilised offering. The Gobi has produced the complete, well almost, skeletal remains of a new species which palaeontologists tell us are related to the group known as Hadrosauridae. Yes, there were totally rad, extra humungous, and far more thrilling dinosaurs roaming around in the Late Cretaceous, but in numbers hadrosaurs reigned supreme. Uncovered in the Bayshin Tsav region of the Gobi and evaluated by Khishigjav Tsogtbataaar of the Mongolian Academy of Science, the new species has been christened ‘Gobihadros Mongoliensis’.
Hadrosauridae, are a family of dinosaurs that include ornithopods, such as Parasaurolophus, Velafrons, and Edmontosaurus. These dominant herbivores were quite distinct in appearance. The bones in their snouts were thick, flat, and broad, imagine a duck’s bill and you’ve got the picture. Known for their cranial ornamentation, some had large hollow almost concave crests (See Lambeosaurinae), others exhibited solid crests or had none at all (See Saurolophinae). They were also noted for their specialised jaws and teeth. While the newly discovered dinosaur isn’t actually a member of the Hadrosauridae family, anatomical analysis has revealed the Gobihadros mongoliensis is definitely a kissing cousin.
When the near perfect 3ft long juvenile skeleton of the Gobihadros mongoliensis was found, extensive referred material was gathered along with it. Its study has highlighted what separates the Gobihadros from all other non-hadrosaurid hadrosauroids. The tomial edge of the premaxilla was found to be double layered, they also have multiple layers of teeth, with as many as 3 teeth per tooth position. Though these are typical Hadrosaurid traits, after further analysis, cogitation and dispute, scientists have surmised that the similarities occurred via parallel evolution, putting the Gobihadros in a monotypic genus of its own. It also underpins the argument that later hadrosaurids did not descend from Gobihadros. More likely, they evolved in North America and ambled over to Asia via Beringia. For those that don’t know the Beringia is a large land mass which today is underwater. However, 110 million years ago during the Cretaceous Period, tectonics did its thing and moved geologic plates into a configuration that lowered the sea level allowing a land bridge to first occur. This is how free-roaming dinosaurs were able to get from what is now the Gobi in Mongolia to present day Alaska. It’s also widely believed to be how the Americas were first settled by humans. North Asian Palaeolithic hunter-gatherers are said to have arrived in North America via the Beringia land bridge during the last glacial maximum, but this is subject to debate.
Gobihadros mongoliensis is not only a new species, it is the first and only non-hadrosaurid taxon known from the early Late Cretaceous. Its remains were so well preserved they are sure to fill in the gaps where the evolution of hadrosauroids, iguanodontians, and ornithopods are concerned. The find may even determine the biogeographic origin of the clade, a longstanding subject which still puzzles today’s best and brightest scientific brains. All of which makes the Gobihadros mongoliensis a rather important find.
For more information on conservation projects in Mongolia and Bhutan or to book one of our Dino, Birding, Trekking, Botany or Wildlife Tours, please contact 020 3877 0670