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Huskersaurus Rex

Cool story out of the American Southwest this week: A team of paleontologists has identified and named a new dinosaur. It’s called Jeyawati rugoculus and it lived in a swampy forest that thrived near the shore of a vast inland sea just 91 million short years ago. That area is now western New Mexico, a place not really associated today with swamps and forests, but hey, a lot can happen in 91 million years.

Yes, this has a UNL connection. In 2006, then-geology student Andrew McDonald — under the supervision of UNL professor David Loope – began a project to describe the fossil as part of his UCARE research project. Over time, McDonald’s analysis showed that Jeyawati’s bones were sufficiently distinct from those of other dinosaurs of its kind, warranting the naming of a new species.

To Dr. Loope, this comes as no surprise: ”Andrew is unusually focused and unusually hard-working,” Loope said. “He has been interested in dinosaurs since an early age and has steadily built his knowledge since age 10. He got started on this New Mexico dinosaur while still at UNL and has carried through with it to completion like I knew he would.”

McDonald is now a Ph.D student at Penn, and is the lead author of an academic article naming the new dinosaur in this month’s new issue of the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology. At least a couple metro newspapers — The Deseret News of Salt Lake City and its competitor, the Salt Lake Tribune — have reported on McDonald’s role as a University of Nebraska-Lincoln student in analyzing and helping to name the beast. We’ve put out a news release touting UCARE’s role in the process, and we also sent out targeted pitches to a number of national science reporters, as well. Hopefully we’ll see a few more hits mentioning UNL’s role in the discovery as the week progresses.

Heya, whattie?: Jeyawati was IDed as part of a UCARE project.

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