Monday, July 15

Forget Jurassic World: Utah Home to The Newest Armored Dinosaur

United States of America lights during night as it looks like from space. Elements of this image are furnished by NASAA new species of ankylosaurid, a type of armored dinosaur, was discovered in Salt Lake City, Utah this July. Though the species had relatives across North America, the new species, dubbed “Thorny Head,” is the first species in this genus range.

It’s full name is Akainacephalus johnsoni, named after the museum volunteer and retired chemist, Randy Johnson, who helped prepare its almost perfectly preserved skull. It gets its thorn-inspired nickname from its oddly-bumped head. This fossil is the most complete ankylosaur found in the southwest United States to date, with a nearly complete tail, skull, spiked plates, and several vertebrae.

The dinosaur is expected to have measured between 13 and 16 feet in length and only about three-and-a-half feet tall. This herbivorous dinosaur relied on its spiky plates and armor to defend itself against its vicious carnivorous counterparts.

While we recognize this type of dinosaur from “Jurassic Park,” the species lived alongside the formidable Tyrannosaurus rex in the Late Cretaceous — 76 million years ago. To put this into perspective, our oft-seen rain gutter was only invented in the 20th century, around 100 years ago.

This species, in particular, gave scientists a view into the species variability within the genus, as well as its range. It is thought that these dinosaurs emigrated from their Asian origin over 100 million years ago, but its close relation to the Asian ankylosaurid reveals new information regarding this species’ range.

The Akainacephalus johnsoni diverges from its North American counterparts primarily through its skull shape. The North American Akainacephalus is typified by its smooth skull, but the new discovery shares more characteristics with Asian ankylosaurs, spurring excitement and confusion throughout the scientific community.

It is thought that this species may have come to North America and split into two separate groups. Scientists think this was made possible due to a land bridge or other geographic mode of transport.

This new dinosaur is just one of the discoveries scientists have made within the last 15 years. Other species found include carnivorous dinosaurs, horned dinosaurs, and duck-billed dinosaurs.

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