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Dire Straits-A-Saurus

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 honor. The British musician's distinctive guitar style, gravely voice and hits such as ``Sultans of Swing'' and ``Romeo and Juliet'' were such an inspiration to paleontologists they named a 70-million-year-old dinosaur after him. Masiakasaurus knopfleri is a six-foot 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 honor 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 teeth and jaws which are unlike those of any other dinosaur. The first tooth of the lower jaw projects outward, instead of up and the front teeth are elongated and conical while the back teeth are flattened and serrated. Knopfler said he was ``delighted and honored'' by the gesture. ``The fact that it's a dinosaur is certainly apt, but I'm happy to report I'm not in the least bit vicious.'' 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.'' Masiakasaurus's closest cousins were predatory dinosaurs found in Argentina and India. Because Madagascar, an island off 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 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.By Patricia Reaney LONDON (Reuters)
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