Monday, January 31, 2011

Dinosaur named for KU grads Celina and Marina Suarez

Posted By on Mon, Jan 31, 2011 at 12:00 PM

click to enlarge Geminiraptor suarezarum was named after twin KU grads.
  • Geminiraptor suarezarum was named after twin KU grads.

I'm not sure there is anything cooler than having a dinosaur named after you. Count KU grads and identical twins Celina and Marina Suarez among the coolest people ever after the two had a new species of dinosaur named for them.

Geminiraptor suarezarum, "one of the oldest dinosaurs of its type ever identified in North America," will be named for the 29-year-old identical twins and geochemists, who discovered the birdlike raptor's bones in Utah in 2004.

"It really was a dream come true when we found the bones," Marina told

KU News. "I was so excited. So much has happened between then and now,

though, that it seems like it's been so long ago. I never thought of a

dinosaur being named for us, though."



The twins began hunting for dinosaur bones in the second grade.

"Since then, I've never looked back," Marina added. "Finding a dinosaur

is something every kid dreams of, so it was really exciting to be the

first people to see the remains of animals that have been gone for

millions of years."

"I never thought it would happen," Celina told KU News. "We -- and I

mean all of us paleo nerds -- always dream about such a thing happening,

but never think it will. As kids, though, we always wanted to find a

new dinosaur. Again, one of those things you dream about happening. And,

well, it did, so we were really excited about the find and even more

thrilled that it was named after us."



The twins weren't at KU when they made the discovery. They were master's-degree students at Temple University when they discovered the

troodontid bones. Two to three new dinosaur discoveries were discovered

at the site, now known as the Suarez Sisters' Quarry.

Here's how

the discovery occurred: 

Geminiraptor came to light when Marina spied what appeared to be bone

protruding on a steep hillside. She scrambled onto the slope and with

Celina began uncovering bones and fragments. Later, fragments of a

hollow upper jawbone were uncovered -- clearly indicating the bones

belonged to a new troodontid species.

Analysis and cataloging of the bones revealed that the twins had found

the remains of a six- to seven-foot-long bipedal meat-eating raptor that

lived about 125 million years ago. Most of the known troodontids

discovered in North America date to between 72 million and 75 million

years ago.

[State paleontologist with the Utah Geological Survey James] Kirkland

theorizes that G. suarezuam was fast, smart and had big eyes and

dexterous hands or claws. The unusual hollow upper jaw bone may have

helped the dinosaur vocalize. Although it was much smaller, Kirkland has

compared G. suarezuam in appearance to the Velociraptor, featured in

the 1993 film "Jurassic Park." The G. suarezaum bones reside at the

College of Eastern Utah's Prehistoric Museum in Price.


The Suarez sisters ended up getting their doctorate degrees from KU in 2009 and 2010. The Public Library of Science journal PLoS One made the announcement in a

paper on December 15.

There are only 700 named dinosaurs worldwide, making the list of cool people a short one.

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