Friday, April 23, 2010
The National Park Service calls the park a “paleontological paradise,” where more than 90 dinosaur species have been found. So there’s plenty to go around.
And the paleontologists mitigated their “poaching” by naming the dinosaur after Wann Langston Jr., a professor emeritus at The University of Texas at Austin. He’s one of the most prolific dino discoverers in Big Bend.
Texacephale langstoni was a plant-eating dinosaur about as big as a medium-sized dog that lived 70 to 80 million years ago, according to Nicholas Longrich of Yale University, lead author of the paper published in the journal Cretaceous Research.
A distinguishing characteristic was a softball-sized lump of solid bone on top of the dinosaur’s skull.
The team discovered two skull fragments in Big Bend in 2008. They compared them to dozens of fossils from related species found in Canada and Montana before confirming that the fossils represented a new genus of pachycephalosaur, a group of bipedal, thick-skulled dinosaurs, according to Yale’s announcement of the find.
Longrich said they named the dinosaur after Langston “because he’s done a lot for paleontology in Texas, especially in Big Bend. He also collected a lot of the fossils from Canada that we compared the thing to.”
Texacephale is the third species named after Langston.
Langston came to The University of Texas at Austin in 1969 after serving as Curator at the National Museum of Canada.He and his students made many discoveries including the pterosaur Quetzalcoatlus northropi, the largest flying creature known, in Big Bend.
Langston retired from the university in 1986 but continued work at the Vertebrate Paleotology Laboratory. In 2007, he received the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology’s highest honor – the A. S. Romer-G. G. Simpson Medal.
According to Longrich, Langston’s take on the latest naming was, “Incidentally, my wife commented that having a bonehead as a namesake was entirely appropriate!”