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Meet Nevadadromeus Schmitti — Nevada's First Homegrown Dinosaur

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Nevada Science Center

Paleontologist Joshua Bonde and Nevada Science Center Executive Director Becky Hall flank an illustration of Nevadadromeus Schmitti by artist Julius Csotonyi.

Editor's note: This originially aired on Sept. 27

Millions of years ago Nevada was home to a variety of dinosaurs, but it had long been thought none of those were unique to the state

That just changed. Nevada now has a dinosaur that, so far, no one else does.

First discovered in 2008, fossilized bones of the creature were pieced together over the last 13 years. It’s now verified and certified, and it has been named Nevadadromeus Schmitti, a plant-eating animal the size of a large dog.

“This was just a random day, we were out doing prospecting at Valley Fire State Park, which is one of the hotspots for dinosaurs in the state of Nevada,” said paleontologist Joshua Bonde, recounting the discovery of the animal’s fossils.

Bonde and his team were hunkered down during a thunderstorm when one of them looked down “and there were some bones right there.”

“These look like rocks, and only a paleontologist would recognize” them as fossils, Bonde said. He said the site provided only a few of the animal’s bones, adding to the challenge of identifying it.

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“It's literally a jigsaw puzzle,” Bonde said, “and it's if you think of every single bone in an animal's body, you take a hammer, you smash it up, you throw away the picture from the jigsaw puzzle, and you have a bunch of different pieces you have to put together.

“It was actually really scouring that surface and just picking up the bits and pieces. That's why it's taken us so long back in the lab.”

As the pieces came together, Bonde realized “it started looking different than animals of the same age,” about 100 million years ago.

Nevadadromeus Schmitti walked on two legs and survived on plants that grew in Nevada’s then-lush landscape, which featured large rivers and prairies of ferns.

Bonde speculated that the new dinosaur “was probably on the menu for every other type of dinosaur” and used its speed to avoid becoming prey.

The “dromeus” portion of its name means runner. “Schmitti” recognizes Montana State University Professor James G. Schmitt, a geologist who urged Bonde to explore at Valley of Fire.

 

Guests

Joshua Bonde, paleontologist and director of research, Nevada Science Center; Kaden Kidman, second-grader, dinosaur fan

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