Technology & Science

Details of newly discovered armoured dinosaur revealed

A husband and wife team of paleontologists from Buffalo, N.Y., have unveiled the results of their research into a previously unknown species of armoured dinosaur that lived 112 million years ago in what is now Montana.

A husband and wife team of paleontologists from Buffalo, N.Y., have unveiled the results of their research into a previously unknown species of armoured dinosaur that lived 112 million years ago in what is now Montana.

Bill and Kris Parsons found the fossilized skull of an as yet undiscovered type of the ankylosaur species of dinosaur on a hillside in south-central Montana in 1997. Their research was published in the October issue of the Canadian Journal of Earth Sciences.

The ankylosaurs were plant-eating dinosaurs that were armoured like tanks, with bony spiked plates covering their bodies and a club on the tip of their tails.

The skull of Tatankacephalus cooneyorum was 90 per cent complete, so the researchers were able conclude that it represents a new species. The Parsons also found skin plates, fragments of rib bones and a vertebra.

Bill Parsons said it is the first ankylosaur found from the early Cretaceous period, showing a transitional form in the evolution from earlier Jurassic and late Cretaceous ankylosaurs.

The skull has thick bony plates and is protected by two sets of small horns on the sides and two domes on the back. Later ankylosaurs had much larger horns and a highly curved nose.

"Heavy ornamentation and horn-like plates would have covered most of the dorsal surface of this dinosaur," said Bill Parsons. Parsons estimated that the Tatankacephalus would have been 4.5 to six metres long.

Both of the Parsons are research associates with the Buffalo Museum of Science. Bill Parsons is also a freelance dinosaur illustrator and drew the head of the Tatankacephalus with a colourful keratinous covering, similar to that found on bird beaks and turtle shells.

They named the dinosaur Tatankacephalus, which loosely translates as "buffalo head," for the broad, short horns on the back of the skull, which resemble present-day buffalo horns.

"Of course, any further allusions to the city of Buffalo are completely intentional as well," Bill Parsons said.