A species of dinosaur discovered near Green River, Utah, has been named for a Boise State postdoctoral fellow and her twin sister. They made the discovery while they were graduate students at Temple University.
Named Geminiraptor suarezarum for Celina Suarez and her sister Marina Suarez, now a postdoctoral student at Johns Hopkins, the 6- to 7-foot-long raptor-like dinosaur with large eyes and dexterous claws is thought to have lived about 125 million years ago, according to Utah’s Bureau of Land Management.
The dinosaur’s Latin name means “twin predatory thief of the Suarezes” in honor of the 29-year-old twins, who discovered the site where the dinosaur’s remains — primarily an upper jaw bone small enough to cradle in your palm — were found seven years ago in the Crystal Geyser Dinosaur Quarry area. Now known as the “Suarez Sisters’ Quarry,” the pit is located within an area of Utah that paleontologists say contains the state’s second-largest collection of dinosaur remains. Geminiraptor suarezarum is the eighth new species of dinosaur identified in Utah this year, according to experts at Utah’s Bureau of Land Management.
“We found the site in 2004, when I was working on my master’s at Temple,” said Marina Suarez. “I was studying the depositional environment of a different dinosaur locality. Part of that research was describing sequences of rocks. I found the site because it was in a steep-sided gully that had good rock exposure. After scrabbling down the gully, I saw bone in the side of the hill, and the more we looked, the more we found.”
The sisters eventually concluded that the deposits of bones indicated that dinosaurs had congregated at that site near a water source, probably a spring. The bones and remnants they found are now being curated by the College of Eastern Utah’s Prehistoric Museum.
The recently discovered genus is one that is entirely new to science, according to James Kirkland, a paleontologist with the Utah Geological Survey with whom the Suarez twins worked to excavate another quarry, about a mile from the discovery site. Based on the size of Geminiraptor suarezarum’s cranial capacity relative to its body size, paleontologists contend that this meat-eating dinosaur was probably smarter than most: perhaps about as intelligent as a modern day opossum or roadrunner, Kirkland said. Geminiraptor suarezarum also had an unusual hollow upper jawbone that experts posit may have been used to help the creature vocalize. It may have looked something like the velociraptor, featured in the popular 1993 film “Jurassic Park,” though much smaller.
Having roamed and hunted for prey in Utah 125 million years ago, the newly discovered genus is among the oldest ever identified. Most North American troondontid (birdlike) dinosaurs date from about 72 million to 75 million years ago.
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