Triassic reptile discovered at Arizona’s Petrified Forest named after former park superintendent
PHOENIX — A Triassic reptile species discovered at Petrified Forest National Park in Arizona was named after a former park superintendent and his wife in the peer-reviewed scientific article that published Wednesday.
The reptile is called Puercosuchus traverorum after Brad and Denise Traver — who supported paleontology efforts in the park — and the Puerco River in Arizona, according to a press release.
Park paleontologists discovered the bones during a guided Girl Scout hike in the Blue Mesa area in 2014.
Over 500 skeletal elements of nine individuals of varying size were found at the Petrified Forest bone bed excavated in 2014 and 2015.
The skeletons are approximately 220 million years old.
The animal was not a dinosaur, though, but a reptile also found in Madagascar and Morocco, which were adjacent to modern-day Arizona on Pangea, according to the release.
It was a carnivorous azendohsaurus — a genus with mystery due to poorly preserved taxa — and resembled a Komodo dragon in size and shape, according to the release.
We are excited to announce a new fossil reptile species discovered at Petrified Forest National Park!
Found in 2014 during a guided Girl Scout hike, over 500 skeletal elements from nine individuals have been described from the site… pic.twitter.com/y707HzmXXn
— Petrified Forest NP (@PetrifiedNPS) September 30, 2022
Paleontologists concluded in the scientific article that Puercosuchus traverorum is part of an early-diverging, late-surviving group in the Triassic Period – the first of three Mesozoic Era periods in which dinosaurs roamed earth – and its underrepresentation in fossil records suggests there could be many more bone beds to be uncovered.
The Petrified Forest has Triassic-aged rocks over 200 million years old, which makes it a fruitful spot for fossil discovery.