A new species of dinosaur unique to Arkansas was announced this week in the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology.
The new dinosaur, Arkansaurus fridayi, was named by a team originating at the University of Arkansas, led by paleontologist ReBecca Hunt-Foster, a University of Arkansas alumna who now works as a Bureau of Land Management paleontologist in Moab.
Arkansaurus lived in what is now the state of Arkansas approximately 113 million years ago during the Early Cretaceous period, and represents the second-oldest dinosaur of its kind known in North America.
Arkansaurus, which means “Arkansas’s Reptile,” was an ancestral relative of other North American Late Cretaceous ornithomimids like Ornithomimus and Struthiomimus. Ornithomimids are usually identified by their long necks and beaks, resembling large ostriches with arms and long tails.
Arkansaurus was identified based on the remains of its right foot, which were compared with other known fossil relatives and found to contain a combination of unique anatomical details. The fossils were originally discovered in 1972 by Joe B. Friday on his land near Locksburg, Arkansas, following an earth-moving project.
The name of the dinosaur reflects his discovery, and is published in the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology today. Arkansaurus lived near the coast and was found in an area that would have been about 100 miles from the sea, which then covered most of Texas and Louisiana to the south.
Arkansaurus is the first known dinosaur represented by fossilized bones from Arkansas, although dinosaur tracks have been discovered in the “Natural State.”
Hunt-Foster and her colleagues continue to work on research related to fossil finds in the area, hoping to prove that dinosaur species roamed the Earth during this time and were able to move freely around most of the United States, and that these ornithomimosaurs likely originated in Europe.