PHOENIX – A team of researchers at Petrified Forest National Park east of Holbrook have discovered fossilized remains of a new species of prehistoric reptile. The 220-million-year old burrowing reptile is a drepanosaur, an ancient reptile that had a claw on its tail and a birdlike beak.
Researchers, who named the species Skybalonyx skapter, announced the discovery Oct. 8.
Originally, drepanosaurs were thought to have lived in the trees that grew lush in prehistoric Arizona, but Bill Parker, a paleontologist with Petrified Forest National Park, said Skybalonyx skapter suggests something else.
“The new one, we think, is actually what they call fossorial, so it actually dug in the ground and burrowed,” Parker said. Researchers suspect the claw on the tail, as well as elongated claws on the reptile’s second fingers, helped it dig for bugs to eat.
Skybalonyx was discovered by a group of summer interns from Arizona State University, Virginia Tech, the University of Washington and other colleges who teamed with park researchers to scour an area of the park known as Thunderstorm Ridge.
WASHINGTON – State and federal officials have agreed on a plan that includes bringing in volunteer sharpshooters to cut the number of bison on the North Rim of the Grand Canyon.
Lethal removal has long been discussed as a way to reduce the herd, along with hazing and relocation, but the Sept. 25 agreement between the Arizona Game and Fish Department and the National Park Service clears a path for it to begin as soon as next year.
Scott Poppenberger, Flagstaff regional supervisor for the Arizona Game and Fish Department, said “the lethal removal component is a big part of this recent agreement,” and believes that the measures to reduce the population will help provide balance to the damaged ecosystem.
It comes amid growing concerns from the public and the park service about the impact the nonnative bison have on natural resources, and worries that they could pose a danger to park visitors.
The animals, descended from early 20th-century attempts to cross-breed cattle and bison, have proliferated in the Grand Canyon National Park, where they currently cannot be hunted. The goal of the agreement is to reduce the current herd of 400 to 600 bison to as few as 200, which would do less damage to the environment.