Forget the Grammy or MTV music awards, former Dire Straits frontman Mark Knopfler has received a rock star‘s most unusual accolade — a newly discovered dinosaur named in his honour. The British musician‘s distinctive guitar style, gravelly voice and hits such as „Sultans of Swing“ and „Romeo and Juliet“ were such an inspiration and source of good luck to paleontologists they named a 70– million– year– old dinosaur after him.
Masiakasaurus knopfleri is a 1.8 metre (6 ft) long meat– eating creature, about the size of a German shepherd dog, with unusual protruding teeth.
Dr Scott Sampson of the University of Utah and scientists at the State University of New York at Stony Brook discovered the remains of several of the creatures in Madagascar while listening to the music of Dire Straits. „As a result of that we decided what better way to honour Knopfler than to name a dinosaur after him. If it weren‘t for his music we might not have found the animal in the first place,“ Scott said in a telephone interview.
Masiakasaurus knopfleri is unusual because of its small size and unique teeth and jaws which are unlike any other dinosaur‘s.
Scientists suspect the unusual front teeth were used to capture prey while the blade– like back teeth tore the victim into bite– size chunks. „It is a new species of dinosaur. One of the interesting things about this is that some of its closest relatives are across the world in Argentina,“ Scott explained. „What this says to us is that there may have been land connections between a good part of the southern hemisphere until very close to the time when these animals lived.“
LONG– LOST RELATIVES
Masiakasaurus‘s closest cousins were predatory dinosaurs found in Argentina and India. Because Madagascar, an island near the coast of southeastern Africa, was once part of a supercontinent that has since fragmented it is possible dinosaurs and other animals were able to travel between South America, India and Madagascar by connecting land masses. The new species, reported in the latest edition of the science journal Nature, is based on specimens from six different creatures. Sampson and his colleagues are heading back to Madagascar in the summer to look for more unusual remains. They say they‘ll still be listening to Dire Straits.
Patricia Reaney, REUTERS