The work of Louisiana Geological Survey research associate Paul Heinrich was recently cited in two Discovery Channel website news articles about the discovery of a giant clawed dinosaur unearthed in a Utah desert. The dinosaur, Nothronychus graffami, stood 13 feet tall and had nine-inch-long hand claws. One mystery surrounding the skeleton is how the well-preserved remains of the terrestrial dinosaur came to rest in marine sediments about 60 miles from the nearest contemporaneous prehistoric shoreline. In a Discovery.com interview July 17, Lindsay Zanno, John Caldwell Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of Geology at the Field Museum and lead author of the Proceedings of the Royal Society B paper that describes the new dinosaur, mentions that one possible solution to this mystery was suggested by Heinrich at the 2008 Geological Society of America (GSA) Meeting Houston. In his GSA paper, Heinrich proposes that this dinosaur drifted out to sea on a solid mass of vegetation called a “floating island,” a formation solid and buoyant enough to have transported animals as large and heavy as this dinosaur. Floating islands offer a similar solution to other anomalous finds of well-preserved dinosaur remains in marine sedimentary rocks far from contemporary shorelines.
In an earlier Discovery.com article about the dinosaur, Discovery News writer Jennifer Viegas cited Heinrich’s work as well: http://dsc.discovery.com/news/2009/07/14/sickle-claw-dinosaur.html
To read the interview with Zanno, in which she mentions Heinrich’s work, visit http://blogs.discovery.com/news_animal/2009/07/giant-clawed-dinosaur-from-utah-discovery-interview-with-expert-lindsay-zanno.html
Heinrich, P. V., 2008, Floating Islands as Taphonomic Agents In the Offshore Dispersal of Vertebrate Remains. Geological Society of America Abstracts with Programs, Vol. 40, No. 6, p. 371.
HERIZINOSAUR, Mystery of the Sickle-Claw Dinosaur