Scientists Just Discovered a New Species of Armored Dinosaur That Would be Right at Home in 'Jurassic Park'

Friday, 20 July 2018 - 10:50AM
Earth
Friday, 20 July 2018 - 10:50AM
Scientists Just Discovered a New Species of Armored Dinosaur That Would be Right at Home in 'Jurassic Park'
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Image Credit: Alina Zienowicz (Ala z), e-mail [CC BY-SA 3.0 ], from Wikimedia Commons

It's not going to save you 100% of the time, but if you could travel with armor on your back all day every day, you'd stand a better chance of surviving most attacks from larger predators. Turtles and armadillos have shells, but some dinosaurs had protection that was more than a few levels higher. According to reports, researchers and paleontologists from the Natural History Museum of Utah discovered the fossilized remains of a new Ankylosaurid species years ago and have done extensive work putting the pieces together to present it to the world.

If there is one thing that people know about the Ankylosaurus it's that it has armored plates on its back and a club for a tail. The newly reconstructed relative of that dino, named Akainacephalus johnsoni, was found during an excavation in in the Kaiparowits Formation of Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in Utah and is the most complete specimen ever found in the state. It has similar plating to other ankylosaurs, but researchers say that it has a look that is distinct. The head is covered in pyramid-shaped plates and there are large horns above its eyes that give Akainacephalus an interesting look. In addition to the complete skull, the researchers were able to unearth much of the animals vertebral column, limb fossils, a complete tail club, and a nearly complete synsacrum, which is the dorsal ridge in the pelvic region of birds and extinct reptiles. 

The place where Akainacephalus was found has become really important for paleontologists over the past decade or so because of how fruitful it has been. "The Kaiparowits Formation is really special not only because of the abundance of fossil we find and the diversity of different species, but almost every species of dinosaur we find there is something new that hasn't been found anywhere else on Earth," said Randall Irmis, chief curator of the Natural History Museum of Utah. But finding the fossils is just the beginning. "Our work's not done when we find a new species," Irmis added. "We want to know about the lives of these animals. How did they change as they grew up? How did they behave? What did they eat? And to answer those questions requires ideally multiple specimens...we hope to go back out to southern Utah and find more specimens of Akainacephalus."





Cover image credit: Alina Zienowicz (Ala z), e-mail [CC BY-SA 3.0 ], from Wikimedia Commons

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