Potential New Ankylosaurid from Late Cretaceous Montana

By |2023-01-20T12:36:18+00:00July 25th, 2011|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Main Page|0 Comments

Discovery could be New Genus of Armoured Dinosaur

A dig site near to the town of Jordan (Montana, USA) could provide palaeontologists with a new genus of armoured ankylosaur to study, thanks to the excavations of two brothers from Kansas.  The ankylosaurs were a group of ornithischian dinosaurs, that evolved during the Late Cretaceous, they were descended from earlier armoured dinosaurs that are known collectively as the Thyreophora (shield bearers).  These plant-eating dinosaurs were widespread across the Northern Hemisphere by the end of the Mesozoic.  The proliferation of ankylosaurids across Asia and North America suggests that these herbivores lived in an era that was dominated by big theropod predators (the tyrannosaurs), these animals needed heavy armour and powerful tail clubs to protect themselves from these predators.

An Illustration of a Typical Late Cretaceous Ankylosaur

The compact and low-slung armoured dinosaur Pinacosaurus could have been adapted for digging.

A replica of Pinacosaurus (PNSO dinosaur model). Picture credit: Everything Dinosaur.

Picture credit: Everything Dinosaur

The image (above) is of an armoured dinosaur (Pinacosaurus) which can be found in the PNSO range of prehistoric animal figures: PNSO Armoured Dinosaurs and Prehistoric Animal Figures.

Armoured Dinosaur

The two Kansas based brothers, both keen fossil hunters think they have found something new while digging in the fossil rich strata of Montana.  According to Jim Kirkland, a state palaeontologist at the Utah Geological Survey, who has examined photos of the fossil that Robert and Alan Detrich are uncovering it looks like a new type of ankylosaur.

Jim stated:

“This thing is worthy of note.  There is no doubt about it.  In my mind it’s clearly a new one.”

The brothers have been digging for several weeks.  So far they have uncovered the ankylosaur fossil’s skull, part of its leg, ribs, armoured plates and some vertebrae (back bones.  Based on the fossils found so far, scientists are suggesting that this specimen could represent an animal some ten metres in length, making it one of the biggest ankylosaur fossils discovered to date.

Brother Robert commented:

“It’s huge! It’s bigger than any of the specialists have seen so far.  It’s got everybody pretty excited.”

Kirkland and the Detrich brothers hope a person or institution will step forward to buy the fossil for a museum, which would allow for further study to determine if it is indeed unique.  The effort would involve cleaning the fossil and comparing it against related animals from the fossil record to make sure it is not just a variation of a previously discovered dinosaur.  If these fossils do represent a new genus of ankylosaurid, then the brothers as the finders would have the opportunity to name this dinosaur.  Robert Detrich said, if given the opportunity, he would like to call it “Enormasaurus” in memory of his late mother Norma.

Robert added:

“It’s exciting.  It really is.  When he came back and said it’s pretty clearly a new genus, and these guys write papers on ankylosaurs so they know their stuff.”

Robert Detrich, who is from Wichita, and his brother, who lives in Lawrence, plan to return to Kansas in about three weeks.  Besides the ankylosaur fossil, the brothers also have been digging up a Triceratops fossil.  Perhaps the brothers will be able to find the front limbs of their Triceratops, as the forelimbs of these horned dinosaurs are rarely found in association with other elements of the specimen.