North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences Discovers New 100-Million-Year-Old Dinosaur

100 million year old dinosaur discovered.

A newly discovered ancestor of Thescelosaurus shows evidence that these animals spent at least part of their time in underground burrows.

New dinosaur Fauna [/Foat’NAH/] The Herzogai species lived 99 million years ago in what is now Utah. At that time, the area was a large floodplain ecosystem sandwiched between the shores of a vast inland ocean to the east and active volcanoes and mountains to the west. It was a warm, wet, muddy environment with many rivers running through it.

Paleontologists from North Carolina State University and the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences discovered the fossil — and other specimens of the same species — in the Mussentuchit Member of the Cedar Mountain Formation, beginning in 2013.

The North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences told WRAL News it has the real skeleton, a 3D-printed model of the skull, and a scientific illustration of what it will look like when completed.

Fauna was a small, plant-eating dinosaur, about the size of a large dog, with a simple body. It lacked the bells and whistles of its more ornate relatives, such as the horned, armored and crested dinosaurs. But that doesn’t mean Fauna was boring.

The genus name Fona comes from the ancient creation story of the Chamorro people, indigenous to Guam and the Mariana Islands in the Pacific Ocean. Fona and Pontan were sibling explorers who discovered the island and became the land and sky. The species name honors Lisa Herzog, director of paleontology operations at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, for her invaluable contributions and dedication to the field of paleontology.

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“I wanted to honor the indigenous mythology of Guam, where my Chamorro ancestors were from,” said Haviv Avrahami, a doctoral student at North Carolina State University and digital technician for the new “Dueling Dinosaurs” program at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences. “In the mythology, Fauna became part of the earth when she died, and from her body came new life, which to me, is associated with fossilization, beauty, and creation. Fauna was likely covered in a soft layer of colorful feathers. The species name is Lisa Herzog, who was integral to all of this work and discovered one of the most extraordinary Fauna specimens of several individuals preserved together in what was probably a burrow.”

Researchers believe that fauna is key to expanding our understanding of Cretaceous ecosystems.

“Fona gives us insight into the third dimension that an animal can occupy by moving underground,” Avrahami said. “It adds to the richness of the fossil record and expands the known diversity of small-bodied herbivores, which remain poorly understood despite being incredibly integral components of Cretaceous ecosystems.”

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