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New Ornithopod Discovery Reveals Dinosaur Survivability Through Climactic Crises

Updated: Oct 27, 2023

Ari D’Arconte


In June of 2023 scientists described a new species, Iani smithi from a single finding of a well-preserved skull and spinal bones in the Cedar Mountain Formation in the state of Utah in the United States. Iani smithi is a member of the ornithopod (bird-like) dinosaurs, a relative of Iguanodon. The species would have lived on the coast of the Western Interior Basin, a shallow sea that divided the North American continent during the Cretaceousv period and occupied what is nowadays the Great Plains. Iani is named after the Roman God Ianus, who is the god of beginnings and transitions, a reference to the changing and dramatic period of the Late Cretaceaous. The Late Cretaceaous was a time of dramatic global warming, in part due to massive volcanic activity. This dramatic shift caused numerous extinctions, and Iani smithi serves as evidence that ornithopod dinosaurs survived into the Late Cretaceaous, when they had previously been thought to have gone extinct in North America during the mid-cretaceous ecological shift. Iani is named after the Roman God Ianus (also spelled Janus) who is the deity of beginnings and transitions, reflecting the global shifts of the mid-cretaceous. The discovery serves as continuing proof that, even in 2023, new findings can redefine our understanding of Mesozoic Era (the biological era made up of the Triassic, Jurassic, and Cretaceous periods) environments and the impacts of climatic changes throughout Earth’s geologic history.



“An early-diverging Iguanodontian (Dinosauria: Rhabdodontomorpha) from the Late Cretaceous of North America” by Lindsay E. Zanno, Terry A. Gates, Haviv M. Avrahami, Ryan T. Tucker and Peter J. Makovicky, 7 June 2023,

An early-diverging iguanodontian (Dinosauria: Rhabdodontomorpha) from the Late Cretaceous of North America | PLOS ONE

“New Dinosaur Species Discovered in Utah Lived in an Era of Ecological Changes” by PLOS, 4 July 2023,

New Dinosaur Species Discovered in Utah Lived in an Era of Epic Ecological Changes (scitechdaily.com)


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