New Armored Dinosaur Species Discovered In Utah
Paleontologists have discovered a new species of armored dinosaur named Akainacephalus johnsoni. The fossils of the extinct animal show it belonged to the genus ankylosaurid dinosaur which roamed the plains of Asia 125 to 100 million years ago. According to a study published in the journal Peer J, the new species Akainacephalus lived in North America 76 million years ago during the Late Cretaceous Period.
The remains of the ancient animal were discovered in the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in Kane County of Southern Utah. The fossil was revealed to the public last Thursday and placed on exhibit at the Past Worlds Gallery of the Natural History Museum in Salt Lake City, Utah.
The name given the dinosaur is in reference to its natural features and a dedicated museum volunteer who prepared its skull. Akainacephalus is a combination of two Greek words where akaina means “thorn” or “spike” while cephalus means “head.” Johnsoni, on the other hand, is in honor of Randy Johnson who worked on the fossil’s head.
Johnson, a retired chemist, said he had always loved science. As a museum volunteer, he has participated in working on various fossils together with reputable paleontologists, an opportunity which he describes as like a dream second career.
“I’m a retired chemist, but I’ve always been interested in most of the science disciplines. I never thought that I would have the opportunity to actually work on fossils that could be important for paleontologists,” said Johnson. “I couldn’t believe it when they told me they are naming the ankylosaur after me, a once in a lifetime honor,” he added.
The fossils of the unearthed Akainacephalus included a whole skull, several vertebral columns, a complete tail club, many fore and toe parts, bony body armor with two neck rings and spiked armor plates, Phys reports. The spiky bony armor covering the skull and snout of the dinosaur is its most distinguishing feature, similar to those earlier found in New Mexico and Asia.
“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,” said Ph.D student Jelle Wiersma.
“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,” said Wiersma.
The dinosaur study was funded by the Bureau of Land Management, the Geological Society of America, and the University of Utah Department of Geology and Geophysics Graduate Student Grant.