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: Claims about the decline of the West are 'exaggerated'

Related Stories

In the realm of eternal ice

31 minutes ago

On 6 November 2010, the light of the star known as NOMAD1 0856-0015072 in the Cetus constellation dimmed. What had happened? A dwarf planet at the edge of the solar system had moved in front of the distant ...

Understanding 'secret' urban languages

55 minutes ago

Research into a 'playful' and increasingly popular urban language that grew out of the necessity for criminals to hide their true intent could help organisations in Uganda communicate better with the country's ...

Test can smell ketosis

1 hour ago

VTT has developed a quick, easy-to-use ketosis test for consumers that can detect acetone on exhaled breath. The test will benefit diabetics and dieters in particular, but it can easily be adapted to other uses as well, such ...

Recommended for you

Claims about the decline of the West are 'exaggerated'

3 hours ago

A new paper by Oxford researchers argues that some countries in Western Europe, and the USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand now have birth rates that are now relatively close to replacement, that the underlying trend in ...

Bizarre 'platypus' dinosaur discovered

11 hours ago

Although closely related to the notorious carnivore Tyrannosaurus rex, a new lineage of dinosaur discovered in Chile is proving to be an evolutionary jigsaw puzzle, as it preferred to graze upon plants.

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.