"Such is exactly the case with Akainacephalus johnsoni; not only is this the first described and named Late Cretaceous ankylosaurid dinosaur from Utah, but this unique animal also strengthens the evidence that distinct northern and southern provincialism existed during the late Campanian stage in Laramidia", he said.
The paleontologists found a great number of A. johnsoni's remains - so many that after the researchers covered the finds in plaster jackets and brought them to the lab, it took almost four years for preparators to remove the fossils from the surrounding rock and debris.
The new armored dinosaur, an ankylosaurid, was discovered in the Kaiparowits formation of the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, located in Kane County, southern Utah. The dinosaur was roughly 13 to 16 feet long and lived about 76 million years ago.
Artist's impression of the new ankylosaurid.
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.
"For every hour we spend in the field, it takes hundreds of thousands of hours to prepare the specimens so they can be accessible for researchers", Wiersma said.
Measuring at around three and a half feet tall and 13 feet long, Akainacephalus johnsoni is the oldest example of an armoured dinosaur from the Late Cretaceous in western America. Its four legs were positioned directly below its body.
Ankylosaurs are generally like walking tanks covered in spikes and equipped with a large bony club at the end of its tail.
But the new species, Akainacephalus johnsoni, breaks the rules for North American ankylosaurids.
The dino's skull being prepared for display.
New research published in PeerJ says that although ankylosaurids originated in Asia between 125 to 100 million years ago, they have only been in western North America around 77 million years ago. The spikes and cones found on the skull of Akainacephalus resemble those of its ankylosaurid cousin, the New Mexican Nodocephelausaurus kirtlandensis, but that's about it. Other North American ankylosaurids, like Ankylosaurus, Euoplocephalus, and Ziapelta, featured smooth bony armor on their skulls.
The features of a new species of armoured dinosaur discovered in the United States align more closely with its Asian ancestors, says a new study.
Skeleton of the new armoured dinosaur as represented by preserved bones.
Excitingly, casts of the Akainacephalus johnsoni fossil are now on public display at the Natural History Museum of Utah in Salt Lake City If you're in the area, check it out and leave us a review of the exhibit below.
Temporarily lowered sea levels at the Beringian land bridgecould have allowed the Asian ankylosaurs to immigrate to North America during the Late Cretaceous, said study lead researcher Jelle Wiersma, who was previously advised by Irmis and now is a doctoral student in the Geoscience department at James Cook University in Queensland, Australia.