Chilean researchers on Wednesday confirmed the discovery of a new species of ankylosaur, a family of heavily armored dinosaurs, whose uniquely weaponized tail undoubtedly struck fear in the hearts of predators.
The new variety of tank-like dinosaur, named Stegouros elengassen, featured a bizarre, bony tail shaped like a club that was wielded by Aztec warriors, The New York Times reported.
“It’s lacking most of the traits we’d expect from an ankylosaur and has a completely different tail weapon, which shows there’s something very idiosyncratic happening here in South America,” Alexander Vargas, a professor at the University of Chile and a co-author on the study, told the newspaper.
According to the study, published Wednesday in Nature, the roughly 6.5-foot ankylosaur discovered in 2018 dates from the late Cretaceous period, around 71.7 million to 74.9 million years ago, and its largely fossilized skeleton was found in Magallanes province in Patagonia, Chile’s southernmost region, CNN reported.
While its skull had features in common with other ankylosaurs, the study characterized Stegouros elengassen’s tail weaponry as “bizarre” because it featured seven pairs of flattened, bony deposits fused together in a frond-like structure.
“The tail is extremely strange, as it is short for a dinosaur and the posterior half is encased in dermal bones (bones that grow in the skin) forming a unique (tail) weapon,” paleontologist Sergio Soto Acuña, the study’s lead author and a doctoral student at the Universidad de Chile, told CNN via email.
Stegouros means “roofed tail” in Greek, while “elengassen” is from Aonikenk, the language of the original inhabitants of Patagonia, and refers to a mythological armored beast, the network reported.
Read the complete study in Nature, or visit The New York Times for more details on the University of Texas paleontology team that “stumbled across” the find with only five days left in the 2018 field season.
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