Researchers from Mesalands Community College (MCC) in New Mexico and the Museum of Texas Tech University have uncovered skulls of a new species of the crocodile-like dinosaur known as phytosaur.
The two skulls found near Post, Texas, are about 200 million years old.
“I’ve seen a lot of phytosaur skulls in the past 20 years. The preservation of this specimen is stunning, absolutely stunning,” said Axel Hungerbuehler, a natural sciences faculty member at MCC and curator of its Dinosaur Museum.
The skulls are distinct from any known phytosaur species, according to researchers. The new species is characterized by the different features of the nostril and the almost closed temporal opening in the rear of the skull.
Mesalands Community College is “one of the top colleges in our region in paleontological research,” said President Thomas W. Newsom. Students can earn associate degrees in geology or paleontology and participate in weeklong “dinosaur digs” in the summer.
A “swamp monster,” Machaeroprosopus lottorum lived “during the Triassic period, when West Texas was a tropical rain forest lush with tall ferns and conifers,” reports National Geographic.
Community college museums can “raise the college’s profile, help attract donors, strengthen ties to the community and enhance educational programs,” writes Community College Times.
A museum at Johnson County Community College (JCCC) in Kansas focuses on contemporary and Native American art.
The Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York has a collection of more than 50,000 garments and accessories, some of them hundreds of years old.
Miami Dade College’s Museum of Art + Design presents exhibitions of notable artists and complements the college’s art galleries.
The Dinosaur Museum at Mesalands Community College in New Mexico combines fossils with artwork.
JCCC’s art museum has “brought extraordinary national and international visibility to this campus,” said Bruce Hartman, director of the Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art. “An enormous number of people have come to campus that otherwise wouldn’t have set foot here,” Hartman said. “Some of those people have become donors or we’ve been able to otherwise engage them.”
Actor Vincent Price, known for his roles in horror films such as “The Fly,” donated 2,000 works of art to what’s now known as the Vincent Price Art Museum at East Los Angeles College (ELAC). Now part of ELAC’s Performing and Fine Arts Complex, VPAM’s inaugural show in the new building featured eight ELAC alumni who have become well-known artists.
“For many people, including myself, it’s amazing to find something after 200 million years,” said Dr. Axel Hungerbuehler, the museum curator.
In the past five years, field classes have recovered numerous fossils at six sites in the Quay County area. Approximately 1,400 skeletal elements have been recovered, including two skulls and a plethora of bones of the crocodile-like phytosaur Redondasaurus. Limb bones from a new form of a large, heavily armored aetosaur have also been recovered during summer field classes.
“A field class earlier this month was extraordinarily successful,” Dr. Hungerbuehler said. “For the lack of time, we had to leave several specimens in the ground for upcoming field classes to recover, and I am absolutely certain that more are still waiting to be uncovered.”