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Dinosaur misidentified for decades turns out to be new species. 'Big, big deal'

Mitchell Willetts, The Charlotte Observer on

Published in News & Features

A newly discovered species of dinosaur has been unearthed in Missouri, and it’s a “big, big deal” for more than one reason, a paleontologist said.

Finding a dinosaur skeleton in the Midwest is notable in itself, Guy Darrough said, but that of a previously unknown species?

“It’s like finding King Tut’s treasure in Missouri,” he said in a phone interview with McClatchy News.

Parrosaurus missouriensis, as the species has been dubbed, was misidentified for decades, based on a limited number of fossils found at the site. At one point, the creature was thought to be a type of long-necked dinosaur. Later, experts declared it was a species of dinosaur previously discovered in North Carolina.

“It wasn’t clear what this thing was all the way up until recently,” Darrough said.

Parrosaurus missouriensis was duck-billed and sported a spiked thumb on each hand, either for protection or mating, or both. Based on the skeletons recently pulled from the Chronister dig site — one adult and one juvenile — the beast would have been up to 30 feet long, weighing between 2 tons and 3 tons, Darrough said.

 

The 70-year-old has been patiently digging and excavating at the site for years, pulling bones and teeth from the clay alongside colleagues, the importance of what lay beneath growing clearer with each find.

Darrough and company reached out to the Field Museum in Chicago in 2016, and after seeing what had been found at the Missouri site, the museum has sent a steady stream of help ever since.

“Every time they’ve dug, they’ve found all kinds of neat stuff,” Darrough said, adding that the tooth of a tyrannosaurus has also been found at the site.

The main body of the adult Parrosaurus was extricated from the site only about a month ago, he said.

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