Utah museum unveils fossil from armoured, spiky-headed dinosaur

Rodiano Bonacci
Luglio 21, 2018

Though the dinosaur was discovered in Utah, it used to reside in the lost continent of Laramidia, which encompassed the western side of what is now called North America during the Late Cretaceous period.

The fossil unveiled Thursday at the Natural History Museum of Utah was first discovered in 2008 in the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, a rich dinosaur repository in southern Utah.

A life reconstruction of the head of the new armored dinosaur Akainacephalus johnsoni, which lived 76 million years ago in Utah, U.S.is seen in this image provided July 19, 2018.

In the excavation of the fossil, paleontologists from the University of Utah and the Natural History Museum of Utah were able to retrieve a very well preserved skull of the armored dinosaur, along with bony armor in the form of spiked plates and neck rings, several vertebrae, limb bones, and an nearly complete tail with the iconic ankylosaur club still connected to it.

This is the most complete skeleton of an ankylosaurid dinosaur that has ever been found in western America.

I couldn't believe it when they told me they are naming the ankylosaur after me, a once in a lifetime honour.

It's not big by most dinosaur standards - between only 13 and 16 feet long - but you can bet its armored tail with a club packed a good punch. The "johnsoni" pays homage to Randy Johnson, a retired chemist and volunteer at Utah's Natural History Museum, who spent thousands of hours preparing the fossils for study.

A new species of dinosaur has been discovered with the help of a North Queensland scientist.

Ankylosaurids are a group of four-legged herbivorous armoured dinosaurs with imposing bony tail clubs. In all, it took palaeontologists almost four years to assemble and fully prepare the bones for analysis.

"Most of the armour on Ankylosaurids from North America are relatively flat but [the Akainacephalus] actually has very spiky and bulbus armour all across its head so that makes it very unique", Mr Wiersma said. This one had pronounced spiky, bony armor covering the skull and snout, closely related to Asian ankylosaurids that lived 125 million years ago.

When sea levels reached some of the highest in the history of our planet, the Western Interior Seaway effectively split the North American continent in two.

But the sea level lowered briefly on several occasions, allowing dinosaurs and animals to go between Asia and western North America across the Beringian land bridge. The spot where the fossil was found remains within the monument's boundaries, though areas that are now outside the boundaries also have fossil potential, Irmis said.

"It is extremely fascinating and important for the science of paleontology that we can read so much information from the fossil record, allowing us to better understand extinct organisms and the ecosystems they were a part of", Wiersma said. This part of Laramidia was incredibly diverse in plant and animal life between 75 million and 80 million years ago.

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