If you have ever traveled to southeastern Utah, you may have noticed a greenish-colored rock formation sandwiched between the monumental red rocks. This green mudstone is part of the Morrison Formation, a distinct rock layer spread across the western United States.
The Morrison dates to the late Jurassic period approximately 155 to 140 million years ago. Numerous dinosaur fossils have been found in the Morrison formation, making it one of the most fossil rich rock layers in North America.
In 2001, a new small dinosaur species was discovered in the Morrison formation near Douglas, Wyoming named Hesperornithoides miessleri, nicknamed "Lori". Lori was a troodontid, a group of highly intelligent dinosaurs closely related to the velociraptor. For the first time, this specimen will be available for viewing at the Wyoming Dinosaur Center in Thermopolis, Wyoming.
“The shape of the animal is kind of odd because it has long thin arms, long gangly legs and the tail is relatively short for the size of its body,” said Bill Wahl, the paleontologist who discovered Lori in 2001. "The odd proportions probably meant that it was not a fleet runner, it was probably a lurker in the undergrowth. The claws are impressive because we have both hand claws as well as foot claws. And this thing was a slicer dicer. You can picture it attacking something and whatever it attacked probably didn’t get away.”
At only three feet long from head to tail, Lori is the smallest dinosaur discovered in Wyoming. Wahl says finding small dinosaurs like Lori is rare because of their delicate bones.
“That we found something like this means that people have to start slowing down when they go through their dig sites and maybe keep an eye out for small things," he said. :We are also hoping that this might be an opportunity for people to revaluate some of their sites and dig through their own collected material from the last 30-40 years. Another specimen of Lori could be sitting on a shelf somewhere.”
Wahl and others at the Wyoming Dinosaur Center said they are proud to host this unique specimen discovered in their native state.