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New Mexico college students find Triassic period fossil.

TUCUMCARI, N.M. (AP) -- A geology class field trip in the Tucumcari area has turned up a hip bone from an unidentified Triassic period creature that walked what is now New Mexico some 200 million years ago.

The Mesalands Community College class--made up of high school students, a high school teacher from New York City, two Texas retirees and a couple of volunteers from Oklahoma--found and excavated an ilium, the topmost element of the three hip bones.

The fossil was found late last year in rocks of the uppermost Triassic period, but the college didn't announce the find until February. (See related story, page 16)

It was discovered by Reginal Tempelmayer of Norman, Okla., a student and long-term volunteer with the community college, said Axel Hungerbuehler, instructor of the paleontology field discovery class.

"On the bottom rim of the bone there is a deep embayment flanked by two prongs," Hungerbuehler said. "This is the hip socket where the thigh bone connects."

Only one reptile group during the Triassic had a hole in the hip sockets, he said.

"This is a real dinosaur ilium," or alternatively a 'proto-dinosaur,' an ancestral dinosaur-like form that does not show yet all features of true dinosaurs, Hungerbuehler said. Dinosaurs are rare in the Upper Triassic, he said.

The ilium of the Tucumcari-area find is significantly larger than an ilium from an average-size coelophysis, New Mexico's state dinosaur, and the shape is quite different, Hungerbuehler said.

"Pending further study, this suggests that it belongs to an unknown form from the dawn of the dinosaurs," he said.
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Title Annotation:dateline washington
Publication:Community College Week
Date:Mar 24, 2008
Words:260
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