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TAWA

a small carnivorous theropod dinosaur from the Late Triassic of North America.
Tawa hallae
Pronunciation: Ta-WAH
Meaning: for the Pueblo Sun God
Author/s: Nesbitt et al. (2009)
Synonyms: None known
First Discovery: New Mexico, USA
Chart Position: 545

Tawa hallae

It's not very often that a critter is discovered which conveniently adds a few sentences to a missing chapter of dinosaur evolution so — just like the little herbivores who were on the menu of this skinny, pint-sized predator — when palaeontologists spotted Tawa their eyes almost popped out of their sockets. It was an all new Triassic theropod. In North America!

Not to be confused with a flat cast-iron cooking griddle, an Indian river, or the Kiwi soccer team which all share the same name, Tawa (Hopi name for the Pueblo sun god) was discovered in North America alongside Triassic-aged relatives of the enigmatic Herrerasaurus and Coelophysis, and its pristine fossils sported features found in both. Funnily enough, the three belong to different lineages and are not each other's closest relatives. Nor is Tawa a "missing link" as Herrerasaurus and Coelophysis both have older relatives in the Ischigualasto Formation of Argentina. Along with the fact that Argentina also boasts Triassic-aged sauropods and ornithischians while they're absent from anywhere in North America, this suggests that the ancestor of all dinosaurs rose on the bit of ancient Pangea — the whole world supercontinent, literally "entire Mother Earth" — in the area that corresponds to modern South America, and its descendants began their march to global domination from there.

Tawa head Like Coelophysis, Tawa had a "crocodile-like kink" in its snout and hollow bones, and its braincase and neck housed air sacks (much like modern birds), but its ilium (a hip bone) was Herrerasaurus-like. Original estimates of two meters in length and 3/4 meter hip-height may be around 30% off as the holotype wasn't fully grown, though it was very slightly-built so probably didn't weigh much more than 40kg as an adult. It's currently loitering just outside of Neotheropoda on the dinosaurian family tree.

Coincidently, Tawa is also the name of a hybrid potato variety from the greenhouse of Iowa state college that is resistant to late blight and scab, and immune to latent mosaic. Apparently, these spuds make cracking chips, but their mere mention in the same sentence as 'VIRUS-X' is a little unsettling.
Etymology
Tawa is named after "Tawa" (also spelled Taiowa and Taawa), the Hopi sun spirit and creator god. The species epithet, hallae, honours Ruth Hall, founder of the Ghost Ranch Museum of Paleontology.
Discovery
The first Tawa fossils were stumbled upon by Hikers in the Petrified Forest Member of the Chinle Formation, Hayden Quarry, Ghost Ranch ("Rancho de los Brujos" meaning "Ranch of the Witches", to the locals), Rio Arriba County, New Mexico, USA, in 2004.
The Holotype (GR 241) is a mostly complete, possibly sub-adult skull and skeleton. The nearly complete skeleton of a larger individual (GR 242) and at least six other individuals were found in the same area of the quarry.
Estimations
Timeline:
Era: Mesozoic
Epoch: Triassic
Stage: Norian
Age range: 227-209 mya
Stats:
Est. max. length: 2 meters
Est. max. hip height: 0.7 meters
Est. max. weight: 30 Kg
Diet: Carnivore
Family Tree:
Dinosauria
Saurischia
Theropoda
Tawa
hallae
References
• S.J. Nesbitt, N.D. Smith, R.B. Irmis, A.H. Turner, A. Downs and M.A. Norell (2009) "A complete skeleton of a Late Triassic saurischian and the early evolution of dinosaurs".
• C.E. Peterson, W.J. Hooker (August, 1959) "Tawa: A new early potato variety resistant to late blight, scab, and immune to latent mosaic".
• Brett-Surman, Holtz and Farlow (2012) "The Complete Dinosaur: Second Edition".
• Sara H. Burch (2014) "Complete forelimb myology of the basal theropod dinosaur Tawa hallae based on a novel robust muscle reconstruction method". Journal of Anatomy, Volume 225, Issue 3, pages 271–297, September 2014
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To cite this page:
Atkinson, L. "TAWA :: from DinoChecker's dinosaur archive".
›. Web access: 26th Jun 2017.
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