New dinosaur species discovered in E. China
Chinese and Japanese scientists have announced the discovery of a new dinosaur species in the eastern province of Zhejiang, 13 years after the prehistoric creature's skeleton was unearthed during highway construction.
The dinosaur is a new species of Ornithischians, also known as "bird-hipped" dinosaurs because of their bird-like hip structure. They lived in the Cretaceous period about 100 million years ago.
Scientists made their conclusion after more than three years of intensive study of a partial but well-preserved skeleton, said Zheng Wenjie, a geoscientist with the Zhejiang Museum of Natural History, where the skeleton has been preserved since it was discovered during construction of a highway in 1998 in Tiantai county, eastern Zhejiang province.
They named the new species "Yueosaurus Tiantaiensis", or "Tiantai Yue Dinosaur" in Chinese, as it was discovered in the present-day Tiantai county and the region used to be the territory of the ancient State of Yue during the Spring and Autumn Period over 2,500 years ago, according to Zheng.
The new species represents the southernmost basal ornithopod dinosaur from Asia, also the first one from southeastern China, according to the paper written by Zheng and his four co-researchers, two from China and two from Japan.
The paper was published this month by British magazine Cretaceous Research and the two Japanese scientists, Masateru Shibata and Yoichi Azuma, are from the Fukui Prefectural Dinosaur Museum.
Ornithopods are a group of ornithischian dinosaurs that started out as small, bipedal running grazers, and grew in size and numbers until they became one of the most successful groups of herbivores in the Cretaceous world.
Though the species dominated the North American landscape, they were rare in Asia.
Before Yueosaurus, only four Ornithopod species had been found in Asia - in northeastern China's Liaoning and Jilin provinces, the Republic of Korea and Mongolia.
The beaked, herbivorous creature, only 1.5 meters long and one meter tall, is the smallest dinosaur ever found in the province, according to Zheng.
"They were great runners. They are really small, so they had to run away fast from those ferocious meat-eating dinosaurs," Zheng said.
Latest research has showed that some of them even burrowed and lived in holes in the ground, he added.
Zhejiang boasts vast areas of land rich in dinosaur and dinosaur egg fossils. Four new dinosaur species, three herbivorous and one carnivorous, had been discovered in the province before Yueosaurus, according the museum, which is located in Hangzhou, capital of Zhejiang.