Six years ago, shortly after I moved to Utah, I took a short drive down the highway to Brigham Young University's Museum of Paleontology. I was hungry to get acquainted with the dinosaurs of my new desert home, and I knew the Mormon college's little museum had a few I hadn't seen before. One of them, a blunt-skulled sauropod, stood against a dimly-lit wall. I didn't recognize it. The great herbivore looked somewhat like the spoon-toothed Camarasaurus of Jurassic time, but the museum identified this dinosaur as something different. Exactly what, it didn't say. The sauropod didn't have an official name yet, reconstructed but awaiting publication. Now that's changed, and we can welcome Moabosaurus utahensis to the dinosaur family tree.

As you might guess from the dinosaur's name, Moabosaurus hails from the vicinity of Moab, at the heart of Utah's dinosaur country. Its remains were among over 5,500 fossils excavated from the Dalton Wells Quarry at intervals between 1975 and 2005, paleontologist Brooks Britt and colleagues write, yielding various elements of the new sauropod. 

The geologic age of Moabosaurus alone makes it noteworthy. Even though western North America was practically swarming with sauropod dinosaurs at the end of the Jurassic, by the time the Dalton Wells Quarry formed - around 125 million years ago - sauropod diversity had plummeted. The herbivorous giants were still around, but they apparently become much less diverse and rarer on the landscape. Moabosaurus is one of those hard-to-find giants.

So what flavor of sauropod was Moabosaurus? That's a little unclear as yet. The dinosaur seems to hover around the part of the sauropod family tree that includes other stout species like Camarasaurus, Erketu and Euhelopus from Asia, and early titanosaurs. In broad terms, Moabosaurus seems to be another example of the stouter, larger-toothed sauropod forms of the Late Jurassic continuing on while the more slender Diplodocus-like forms vanished from North America. The question is what gave these particular forms of sauropod an edge over their relatives, and the answer to that is still held in the fossil record.

Neck vertebrae of Moabosaurus. Credit: Britt et al. 2017

Fossil Facts

Name: Moabosaurus utahensis

Meaning: "Moab lizard from Utah", in reference to the town near the fossil quarry this dinosaur was recovered from.

Age: Cretaceous, about 125 million years ago.

Where in the world?: Utah, U.S.A.

What sort of organism?: A sauropod dinosaur.

Size: About 32 feet long.

How much of the organism’s is known?: Over 70 specimens from multiple individuals, including parts of the skull, spine and limbs.


 Britt, B., Scheetz, R., Whiting, M., Wilhite, D. 2017. Moabosaurus utahensis, n. gen., n. sp., a new sauropod from the Early Cretaceous (Aptian) of North America. Contributions from the Museum of Paleontology, University of Michigan. 32 (11): 189-243

Previous Paleo Profiles:

The Light-Footed Lizard
The Maoming Cat
Knight’s Egyptian Bat
The La Luna Snake
The Rio do Rasto Tooth
Bob Weir's Otter
Egypt's Canine Beast
The Vastan Mine Tapir
Pangu's Wing
The Dawn Megamouth
The Genga Lizard
The Micro Lion
The Mystery Titanosaur
The Echo Hunter
The Lo Hueco Titan
The Three-Branched Cicada
The Monster of Minden
The Pig-Footed Bandicoot
Hayden's Rattlesnake Demon
The Evasive Ostrich Seer
The Paradoxical Mega Shark
The Tiny Beardogs
The Armored Fish King
North America's Pangolin
The Invisible-Tusked Elephant
The Mud Dragon
The Spike-Toothed Salmon
The Dream Coast Crocodile
Buriol's Robber
Ozimek's Flyer
The Northern Naustoceratopsian
The High Arctic Flyer
The Tomatillo From the End of the World
The Short-Faced Hyena
The Mighty Traveler from Egg Mountain
Keilhau's Ichthyosaur
Mexico's Ancient Horned Face
Mauricio Fernández's Plesiosaur
New Zealand's Giant Dawn Penguin
The Orange Sea Lion
Mongolia's Ginkgo Cousin
The Geni River Frog
Isabel Berry's Dinosaur
The Whale Caiman