New armored dinosaur discovered in Utah

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It includes a complete skull, much of the vertebral column, including a complete tail club, several fore and hind limbs elements, and bony body armour that includes two neck rings and spiked armour plates.

The varieties of ankylosaur was a squat plant-eater that wandered southerly Utah on 4 legs concerning 76 million years back, throughout the late Cretaceous Duration.

The discovery was made at the upper Campanian Kaiparowits Formation in the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in Kane County, Utah, in 2004. 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.

Akainacephalus, as well as a cousin called Nodocephalosaurus that lived in New Mexico a couple million years later, possessed spiky head armor similar to Asian members of this dinosaur group.

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It is also the most complete complete skeleton of an ankylosaurid dinosaur that has been found in the southwestern US.

The genus name Akainacephalus describes the ankylosaur's unique skull, as the Greek words "akaina" and "cephalus" mean "spike" and "head", respectively. "I never thought that I would have the opportunity to actually work on fossils that could be important for paleontologists", said Johnson.

A dinosaur that was covered in bony armour from its spiky head to its clubbed tail has been unveiled at a museum in Utah.

Asian ankylosaurids had more pronounced spikes covering their skulls than the smooth boned armour of their American counterparts.

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Though ankylosaurids originated in Asia between 125 and 100 million years ago, they do not appear in the North American fossil record until around 77 million years ago.

Wiersma said that the Akainacephalus likely crossed the Beringian land bridge that connected Asia with North America when sea levels were low enough to expose the crossing.

He said several animals were found in the quarry and, while he was present when the skeletal remains of the duck-billed dinosaur were discovered, he was not there when the remains of the new species were recovered.

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.

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A new armored dinosaur species discovered in Utah has been named Akainacephalus johnsoni, with its first name meaning "thorny head". These would come together to form North America once again, resulting in the two essentially becoming lost continents.

"It is always exciting to name a new fossil taxon, but it is equally exciting if that taxon also provides additional insights into the bigger picture of its life, such as its diet or aspects of its behavior, and the environment it lived in", says Wiersma.

The findings have been published in the scientific journal PeerJ, authored by Jelle Wiersma and Randall Irmis.

"A major long-term goal of our work in southern Utah is to try and understand why the species in GSENM differ from relatives of the same geologic age found in other parts of Laramidia".

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