BUFFALO, NY (October 30, 2009) -- A husband and wife team of American paleontologists has discovered a new species of dinosaur that lived 112 million years ago during the early Cretaceous of central Montana.
The new dinosaur, a species of ankylosaur, is documented in the October issue of the Canadian Journal of Earth Sciences. Ankylosaurs are the biological version of an army tank. They are protected by a plate-like armour with two sets of sharp spikes on each side of the head, and a skull so thick that even 'raptors' such as Deinonychus could leave barely more than a scratch.
Bill and Kris Parsons, Research associates of the Buffalo Museum of Science, found much of the skull of the newly described Tatankacephalus cooneyorum resting on the surface of a hillside in 1997. Because the skull was 90% complete, it was possible to justify this fossil as a new species.
"This is the first member of Ankylosauridae to be found within the Early Cretaceous Cloverly Geologic Formation," said Bill Parsons, who characterized the fossil as a transitional evolutionary form between the earlier Jurassic ankylosaurs and the better known Late Cretaceous ankylosaurs.
The skull is heavily protected by two sets of lateral horns, two thick domes at the back, and smaller thickenings around the nasal region. "Heavy ornamentation and horn-like plates would have covered most of the dorsal surface of this dinosaur" said Bill Parsons.
"For years, Bill and Kris have been collecting fossils from a critical time in Earth's history, and their hard work has paid off," said Lawrence Witmer, professor of paleontology at Ohio University who was not involved with this study. "This is a really important find and gives us a clearer view of the evolution of armored dinosaurs. But this is just the first; I'm sure, of what will be a series of important discoveries from this team."
Parsons also illustrated the dermal armour of this n
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Buffalo Museum of Science