Unearthed: 100-Million-Year-Old Dinosaur Found in Underground Burrow – Key to Understanding Cretaceous Ecosystems!

Paleontologists in North Carolina have recently made an incredible discovery in Utah—a 100-million-year-old dinosaur that sheds light on the creatures’ behaviors in ancient ecosystems. The newly unearthed ancestor of Thescelosaurus, named Fona Herzogae, provides evidence that these dinosaurs spent time in underground burrows. The fossil was found in what was once a warm, wet, muddy environment with rivers running through it, situated between an inland ocean and volcanic mountains.

Researchers from North Carolina State University and the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences uncovered the fossil of Fona in the Mussentuchit Member of the Cedar Mountain Formation starting in 2013. According to the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, they have the real skeleton, a 3D-printed model of the skull, and a scientific illustration depicting what Fona may have looked like fleshed out. This small-bodied, plant-eating dinosaur was about the size of a large dog and had a simple body plan without the elaborate features seen in other dinosaur species.

The genus name Fona comes from the Chamorro people’s ancestral creation story, while the species name honors Lisa Herzog for her contributions to paleontology. Researchers believe that Fona’s discovery is crucial in expanding our understanding of Cretaceous ecosystems, providing insights into the underground dimension these creatures occupied. Through Fona, scientists aim to enrich the fossil record and broaden the known diversity of small-bodied herbivores that played significant roles in ancient ecosystems.

Haviv Avrahami, a Ph.D. student at N.C. State and a digital technician, shared how the myth of Fona’s origin ties into fossilization, beauty, and creation. Fona was likely covered in colorful feathers, indicating a vibrant appearance. The researchers are excited about the implications of Fona’s discovery for enhancing our knowledge of Cretaceous ecosystems and the behaviors of these ancient creatures. The study of Fona Herzogae opens up new avenues for exploration and understanding the world of dinosaurs millions of years ago.