Spikey southwestern species progressed from Asian ancestors — Scien…

Fossils of a new genus and species of an ankylosaurid dinosaur — Akainacephalus johnsoni — have been unearthed in the Kaiparowits Development of Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument (GSENM), in Kane County, southern Utah, U.S.A., and are revealing new particulars about the variety and evolution of this team of armored dinosaurs. Expected to glimpse like other North American Late Cretaceous ankylosaurid dinosaurs with clean bony armor on the cranium, the new research suggests just the opposite and suggests that the defining characteristics of Akainacephalus, specially the spiky bony armor masking the cranium and snout, align far more intently with Asian ankylosaurids, who also have much more pronounced spikes masking their skulls.

Akainacephalus was introduced today in the open-obtain scientific journal PeerJ and unveiled on exhibit in the Past Worlds Gallery of the Natural Historical past Museum of Utah at the Rio Tinto Center in Salt Lake City, Utah. The genus title is derived from the Greek text akaina, which indicates ‘thorn’ or ‘spike’, and cephalus, that means ‘head.’ The species epithet johnsoni honors Randy Johnson, a focused museum volunteer who skillfully well prepared its skull. Other proficient volunteers assisted to get ready the rest of the specimen.

“I’m a retired chemist, but I have often been fascinated in most of the science disciplines. I hardly ever assumed that I would have the option to actually operate on fossils that could be essential for paleontologists,” claimed Randy Johnson. “Now that I’m a museum volunteer, I am receiving the possibility to function on a large wide range of fossils and consult with prime paleontologists — it’s like a aspiration next job. I couldn’t believe that it when they advised me they are naming the ankylosaur immediately after me, a at the time in a lifetime honor,” reported Johnson.

Ankylosaurids are a group of four-legged herbivorous armored dinosaurs with imposing bony tail clubs. Even though ankylosaurids originated in Asia between 125 — 100 million decades in the past, they do not look in the western North American fossil file right until ~77 million decades ago. The new species Akainacephalus lived 76 million a long time ago in the course of the Late Cretaceous Period and offers the most comprehensive skeleton of an ankylosaurid dinosaur uncovered in the southwestern US. It involves a comprehensive cranium, considerably of the vertebral column, together with a full tail club, several fore and hind limbs components, and bony entire body armor that incorporates two neck rings and spiked armor plates.

The unique arrangement of bony armor in the form of small cones and pyramids masking the snout and head is the essential research discovering indicating that Akainacephalus is closely linked to the New Mexican ankylosaurid Nodocephalosaurus kirtlandensis. Incredibly, Akainacephalus and Nodocephalosaurus are far more closely linked to Asian ankylosaurids such as Saichania and Tarchia than to other Late Cretaceous North American ankylosaurids, which include Ankylosaurus and Euoplocephalus. Both equally of the latter taxa possess flat skull armor.

“A fair speculation would be that ankylosaurids from Utah are similar to these located somewhere else in western North The usa, so we ended up actually amazed to find that Akainacephalus was so intently associated to species from Asia,” remarked Randall Irmis, co-writer of the research.

While ankylosaurids originated in Asia among 125 — 100 million years back, they do not surface in the North American fossil document right up until close to 77 million years in the past. Akainacephalus the moment roamed the southern part of Laramidia, a landmass on the western coast of a shallow sea that flooded the central area, splitting the continent of North America in two. This induced isolation together western and jap parts of the North American continent during the Late Cretaceous Period of time, involving 95-70 million many years in the past.

Direct writer Jelle Wiersma implies that the geographic distribution of Late Cretaceous ankylosaurids during the Western Inside was the result of quite a few geologically quick intervals of reduced sea degree that allowed Asian ankylosaurid dinosaurs to immigrate to North America various periods through the Late Cretaceous, resulting in the presence of two different groups of ankylosaurid dinosaurs. This decreasing of sea stages exposed the Beringian land bridge, allowing dinosaurs and other animals to transfer amongst Asia and North The us.

“It is constantly fascinating to name a new fossil taxon, but it is equally thrilling if that taxon also presents extra insights into the larger picture of its lifestyle, these kinds of as its food plan or facets of its habits, and the setting it lived in,” stated Wiersma. “This kind of is accurately the case with Akainacephalus johnsoni not only is this the initial explained and named Late Cretaceous ankylosaurid dinosaur from Utah, but this distinctive animal also strengthens the proof that distinct northern and southern provincialism existed for the duration of the late Campanian stage in Laramidia, for the reason that to day, we you should not see this style of ankylosaurid dinosaurs in the fossil report of northern Laramidia,” he mentioned.

Wiersma described that moreover, together with its shut relative Nodocephalosaurus from New Mexico, Akainacephalus seems to be quite diverse as opposed to other North American ankylosaurids this sort of as Ankylosaurus, but as an alternative, look much extra like Asian ankylosaurids including Saichania and Tarchia. From these observations we can conclude that at the very least two immigration activities took area through Late Cretaceous occasions when reduced sea concentrations uncovered the Beringian land bridge, connecting Asia with western North The usa.

Ankylosaurid dinosaurs, amongst numerous other groups of animals, at some point crossed this land bridge, emigrating from Asia into western North America, resulting into two distinctive styles of Late Cretaceous ankylosaurid dinosaurs: types that progressed flatter cranium armor like Ankylosaurus and Euoplocephalus, and kinds possessing incredibly spiky cranium armor these as Akainacephalus and Nodocephalosaurus.

“It is incredibly intriguing and important for the science of paleontology that we can read so a lot facts from the fossil file, permitting us to greater recognize extinct organisms and the ecosystems they were being a section of,” concluded Wiersma.

These new findings are component of a examine funded in huge part by the Bureau of Land Administration, as well as the Geological Culture of The usa, and a University of Utah Section of Geology & Geophysics Graduate Scholar Grant. The job was led by College of Utah M.Sc. university student Jelle Wiersma, now a Ph.D. college student in the Dept. of Geosciences at James Prepare dinner College, Queensland, Australia. Wiersma was advised by co-author Dr. Randall Irmis, chief curator and curator of paleontology at the Pure Heritage Museum of Utah, and affiliate professor in the Dept. of Geology and Geophysics, College of Utah.

Anklysaurid Dinosaurs on the Missing Continent of Southern Laramidia

Akainacephalus johnsoni was found in Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument (GSENM) which encompasses a significant region of substantial desert terrain in south-central Utah. This extensive and rugged region, aspect of the Countrywide Landscape Conservation Method administered by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), was the past key area in the decreased 48 states to be formally mapped by cartographers.

Throughout the Late Cretaceous, GSENM was in the southern part of Laramidia, which stretched from the Arctic Circle to the Gulf of Mexico. Akainacephalus is element of a escalating range of new dinosaur discoveries above the earlier 15 many years demonstrating the extraordinary range of animals and plants living on Laramidia in between 80-75 million several years ago. A person of the most thrilling conclusions from this function is that almost every single species of dinosaur found in GSENM is new to science, and Akainacephalus is no exception. Other recently found species incorporate substantial and compact meat-taking in dinosaurs (e.g., tyrannosaurs), horned dinosaurs, and duck-billed dinosaurs. “A important very long-term purpose of our do the job in southern Utah is to consider and realize why the species in GSENM differ from relations of the exact same geologic age identified in other parts of Laramidia,” explained Wiersma. Hypotheses for the distinctions contain variations in sea level, weather differences across latitude, and bodily barriers to animal movement such as mountains and large rivers.

Actuality Sheet: Main Factors of the Paper

(1) Akainacephalus is a outstanding new species of ankylosaurid dinosaur from the higher Campanian Kaiparowits Development in Grand Staircase-Escalante Countrywide Monument in Kane County, southern Utah.

(2) Akainacephalus is the most finish Late Cretaceous ankylosaurid dinosaur uncovered from Utah and the southwestern U.S., and is distinguished by a range of distinctive attributes, like spikes and cones of the bony exterior masking the head and snout.

(3) The spikes and cones of bony armor on the skull of Akainacephalus are comparable to people identified on the New Mexican ankylosaurid Nodocephelausaurus kirtlandensis but distinctive from all other identified Late Cretaceous Laramidian ankylosaurids this sort of as Ankylosaurus, Euoplocephalus, and Ziapelta, indicating these two species are additional closely similar to some Asian ankylosaurids.

(4) The new ankylosaurid Akainacephalus suggests a number of ankylosaurid emigration gatherings from Asia to Laramidia for the duration of the Late Cretaceous.

(5) Alongside one another with some anklylosaurid dinosaurs from northern Laramidia, like Dyoplosaurus acutossquameus and Scolosaurus cutleri (equally ~ 77 Ma), Akainacephalus represents a single of the oldest known ankylosaurid dinosaurs from the Late Cretaceous of western North America (~76 Ma).

New Dinosaur Title: Akainacephalus johnsoni

  • The initially part of the identify, Akaina, is a Greek term that can be translated to spike or thorn. The next element of the identify cephalus suggests head, and the epithet johnsoni honors Randy Johnson, a devoted paleontology volunteer at the Purely natural History Museum of Utah who organized the specimen’s skull.


  • Akainacephalus, is a medium-sized dinosaur, and was 13-16 feet long (4-5 meters) and was 3 ½ feet tall (1 — 1.5 meters) at the hips.


  • Akainacephalus belongs to a team of herbivorous armored dinosaurs referred to as anklosaurids that lived in Asia and western North The usa throughout the Late Cretaceous Period of time (100-66 million decades ago). A single of the distinctive features of ankylosaurid dinosaurs is the existence of a attribute bony tail club.


  • Akainacephalus walked on four legs, which ended up positioned right beneath his system.
  • Akainacephalus was covered in bony armor from head to tail, with many sized and shaped bony plates, named osteoderms, which are believed to give defense.
  • Akainacephalus is characterised by its elaborate masking of spikes and horns on the skull, as properly a big bony club at the end of its tail.
  • Akainacephalus presumably experienced compact, leaf-shaped enamel for having vegetation. These fell out of the jaw following loss of life, but in advance of the skeleton was buried by sediment.

Age and Geography

  • Akainacephalus lived during the upper Campanian stage of the Late Cretaceous Interval, which spanned from close to 84 million to 72 million years back. This animal lived about 76 million a long time ago.
  • Akainacephalus was found out in 76 Ma old rocks of the Kaiparowits Formation, a geological/stratigraphic unit exposed in southern Utah consisting of sedimentary rocks deposited by rivers and streams.

Discovery & Excavation

  • Akainacephalus was first uncovered in 2008 for the duration of a museum-led paleontological expedition in a distant space of BLM-administered Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument (GSENM) in Kane County, southern Utah, Usa. The internet site was found by BLM personnel Scott Richardson.
  • The bones of Akainacephalus that ended up uncovered contain a full cranium, bony armor that consists of neck rings and spiked plates, several vertebrae, forelimb and hindlimb bones, and a near comprehensive tail with tail club.
  • Akainacephalus was located alongside one another with skeletons of many other animals at the similar site, like a duck-monthly bill dinosaur (Gryposaurus), a lately-described species of turtle (Arvinachelys), and a yet unnamed relative of alligators and caimans).
  • Akainacephalus is completely housed in the collections of the All-natural History Museum of Utah at the Rio Tinto Center in Salt Lake Town and on public show at the museum’s Past Worlds show.
  • These discoveries are the result of an ongoing collaboration between the Pure Heritage Museum of Utah and the Bureau of Land Administration.


  • It required pretty much four a long time to totally put together all of the bones of Akainacephalus.
  • Preparing of the cranium was accomplished by museum volunteer Randy Johnson, who is honored in the new identify, Akainacephalus johnsoni

Spikey southwestern species developed from Asian ancestors — Scien…