An unusual fossil with a series of points fused together in a rib has been discovered to be the remains of the oldest ankylosaurus ever and the first on the African continent.
The exciting discovery was made in Morocco’s Middle Atlas Mountains at the same place where Natural History Museum (NHM) researchers found the oldest stegosaurus ever.
Doctor. Susanna Maidment, Researcher at NHM and Senior Lecturer Emeritus at University of BirminghamDescribe and name the new species Spicomellus afer: Spicomellus means “collar spines” and the other meaning is “Africa”.
At first we thought the specimen might be part of a stegosaurus, as we previously found it in the same location. But upon closer examination, we realized that the fossil was like nothing we’d seen before.”
The sample is so unusual that researchers initially wondered if it was a fake. The CT scan turned out to be a real deal, and a cross-section of the specimen’s base showed a criss-cross pattern in the bone unique to ankylosaurs, revealing its identity.
Doctor. Maidment continues: “Ankylosaurs have armored nails that are usually embedded in their skin and do not fuse with the bones. In this specimen, we see a series of nails on the rib, which should protrude above the skin, covered with a layer of something like keratin.”
“It is completely unprecedented and unlike anything else in the animal kingdom.”
Ankylosaurs were a diverse group of armored dinosaurs related to well-known stegosaurs. They are everywhere chalky But there is little evidence of their existence before that time, making this new fossil not only the first ever found in Africa, but also the oldest specimen from a group ever discovered.
The new discovery returns to the East Jura- About 168 million years ago. It helped fill an important gap in our understanding of dinosaur evolution and suggests that ankylosaurs may have had a global distribution.
The discovery also questions an earlier theory that ankylosaurs were larger than stegosaurs and led to their extinction. However, this new discovery means that the two groups coexisted for more than 20 million years, which means that the extinction of stegosaurs may have occurred for other reasons.
The fossil that led to the description of this new species is now part of the collections of the Natural History Museum and will be the subject of ongoing research.
Doctor. Maidment concludes: “Morocco appears to have some real gems in terms of dinosaur finds. Only on this site have we described both the oldest Stegosaurus and the oldest Ankylosaurus ever.
“If conditions permit, we hope to return and work with our colleagues from the University of Fez to help them set up the Vertebrate Paleontology Laboratory so that more discoveries can be studied in Morocco.”
The “Bizarre Skin Armor” study reports that the first African Ankylosaurus was published in the journal Environment and nature development.
Reference: “Exotic Leather Armor Proposes First African Ankylosaurus” By Susanna C.R. Maidment, Sarah J. Strachan, Idriss Weerach, Torsten M. Scheer, Emily E. Brown, Vincent Fernandez, Zerina Johansson, Thomas J. Raven, and Paul M. Barrett, September 23, 2021, Environment and nature development.
DOI: 10.1038 / s41559-021-01553-6
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