New Fossil Find in New Mexico Named After Artist Georgia O'Keeffe

Feb 10, 2006
Sketch courtesy of Sterling Nesbitt.
Sketch courtesy of Sterling Nesbitt.

Two Columbia scientists have discovered the fossil of a toothless crocodile relative that looks like a six-foot-long, two-legged dinosaur, but is actually a distant cousin of today's alligators and crocodiles.

Adjunct professor of earth and environmental sciences Mark Norell and his graduate student Sterling Nesbitt, both of whom also work as paleontologists at the American Museum of Natural History, have named the fossil Effigia okeeffeae.

Effigia means "ghost," referring to the decades that the fossil remained hidden from science. The species name, okeeffeae, honors the artist Georgia O'Keeffe, who lived near the site in northern New Mexico where the fossil was found.

The discovery was announced last month in a technical paper in The Proceedings of the Royal Society and covered in the The New York Times. Click here to see.

Scientists say Effigia is a striking example of "convergence," when two lineages evolve the same body plan.

"It is astounding to see so many advanced dinosaur features in an animal so closely related to modern crocodiles, Norell said. Obviously, this group of crocodiles and dinosaurs must have had similar habitats and probably fed in the same way, accounting for the similarities of the limbs and skull."

Other examples of convergence include marsupial mammals related to kangaroos and opossums that evolved into creatures resembling lions and wolves.

The features of Effigia okeeffeae also were unexpected. "It has large eyes, a beak, it walked on two feet and had small hands," Nesbitt said.

Source: Columbia University

Explore further: Computer games give a boost to English

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Ahead of Emmys, Netflix already winning online

2 hours ago

Even if it doesn't take home any of the major trophies at Monday's Emmy Awards, Netflix will have already proven itself the top winner in one regard: Internet programming.

US warns shops to watch for customer data hacking

2 hours ago

The US Department of Homeland Security on Friday warned businesses to watch for hackers targeting customer data with malicious computer code like that used against retail giant Target.

SpaceX rocket explodes during test flight

2 hours ago

A SpaceX rocket exploded in midair during a test flight, though no one was injured, as the company seeks to develop a spacecraft that can return to Earth and be used again.

Official says hackers hit up to 25,000 US workers

2 hours ago

The internal records of as many as 25,000 Homeland Security Department employees were exposed during a recent computer break-in at a federal contractor that handles security clearances, an agency official said Friday.

Recommended for you

Computer games give a boost to English

11 hours ago

If you want to make a mark in the world of computer games you had better have a good English vocabulary. It has now also been scientifically proven that someone who is good at computer games has a larger ...

Saddam Hussein—a sincere dictator?

16 hours ago

Are political speeches manipulative and strategic? They could be – when politicians say one thing in public, and privately believe something else, political scientists say. Saddam Hussein's legacy of recording private discussions ...

Oldest representative of a weird arthropod group

16 hours ago

Biologists at Ludwig-Maximilians-Universitaet (LMU) in Munich have assigned a number of 435-million-year-old fossils to a new genus of predatory arthropods. These animals lived in shallow marine habitats ...

User comments : 0