Share, , , Google Plus, Reddit, Pinterest, StumbleUpon

Print

Posted in:

Buffalo Museum of Science Researchers Discover New Dinosaur Species

Bill
and Kris Parsons, a husband and wife team of American paleontologists has discovered
a new species of dinosaur that lived 112 million years ago during the early
Cretaceous of central Montana. The new dinosaur, a species of ankylosaur, is
documented in the October issue of the Canadian Journal of Earth Sciences.
Ankylosaurs are the biological version of an army tank. They are protected by a
plate-like armour with two sets of sharp spikes on each side of the head, and a
skull so thick that even ‘raptors’ such as Deinonychus
could leave barely more than a scratch.

The
Parsons, Research associates of the Buffalo Museum of Science, found much of
the skull of the newly described Tatankacephalus cooneyorum
resting on the surface of a hillside
in 1997. Because the skull was 90% complete, it was possible to justify this
fossil as a new species. 

“This
is the first member of Ankylosauridae to be found within the Early Cretaceous
Cloverly Geologic Formation,” said Bill Parsons, who characterized the fossil
as a transitional evolutionary form between the earlier Jurassic ankylosaurs
and the better known Late Cretaceous ankylosaurs.

Tatanka(red).jpg

The
skull is heavily protected by two sets of lateral horns, two thick domes at the
back, and smaller thickenings around the nasal region. “Heavy ornamentation and
horn-like plates would have covered most of the dorsal surface of this dinosaur”
said Bill Parsons.

“For
years, Bill and Kris have been collecting fossils from a critical time in
Earth’s history, and their hard work has paid off,” said Lawrence Witmer, professor
of paleontology at Ohio University who was not involved with this study. “This
is a really important find and gives us a clearer view of the evolution of
armored dinosaurs. But this is just the first; I’m sure, of what will be a
series of important discoveries from this team.”

Parsons
also illustrated the dermal armour of this new species based on a theory by
Museum of the Rockies paleontologist John R. Horner. Dr. Horner theorized that
the outer surface of the “armour” consisted of a keratinous sheathing
such as is found on modern turtle shells and bird beaks. In his new
reconstruction, Parsons’ illustration suggests that Tatankacephalus
exhibited complex and colorful
patterns rather than the dull appearance suggested in some earlier ankylosaur
reconstructions. “According to Dr. Horner’s theory, many other dinosaurs
besides ankylosaurs may have possessed this kind of sheathing and also may have
been more diversely colored” said Parsons.

As to
its name, the broad, short horns on the back of its skull resemble the horns
found on a modern buffalo skull and Tatankacephalus
loosely translates asBuffalo head.’ Parsons also noted, “Of
course any further allusions to the city of Buffalo are completely intentional”.

ABOUT
BILL AND KRIS PARSONS

parsons.jpg

The
primary focus of Bill and Kris’ research is the faunal community (dinosaurs
& etc.) represented within the fossil assemblage preserved in the Early
Cretaceous Cloverly Formation found in central Montana, approximately 112 to
115 million years old.

Bill
Parsons works as a teacher at the Gow School in South Wales, NY, and as
scientific illustrator for the Buffalo Museum of Science.  He is also a
freelance dinosaur illustrator whose images have appeared on the covers of
Science, Nature, and Discover magazine and inside Time, Newsweek, and the
RollingStone. The publication of Tatankacephalus
may be the first time that an
established dinosaur illustrator has discovered, prepared, researched, and
published on a new dinosaur taxon.

Bill
and Kris met at the Buffalo Museum of Science’s “Hiscock Dig”, an Ice Age
archaeological exploration of one of North America’s richest Ice Age sites in
Genesee County, New York, seasonally sponsored by the museum. A year after
meeting, Bill and Kris were married at the Hiscock site. They have now been
married for 15 years and live in South Wales, New York with their 7-month old
twin daughters, Charlotte and Samantha. With the help of several good friends,
the twins have accompanied their parents to Montana for their field research
and also spent three weeks out at the Hiscock site. The twins are already
veterans of two paleontological research expeditions, all before their first
birthday.

Image:  Buffalo.edu

Written by Buffalo Rising

Buffalo Rising

Sometimes the authors at Buffalo Rising work on collaborative efforts in order to cover various events and stories. These posts can not be attributed to one single author, as it is a combined effort. Often times a formation of a post gets started by one writer and passed along to one or more writers before completion. At times there are author attributions at the end of one of these posts. Other times, “Buffalo Rising” is simply offered up as the creator of the article. In either case, the writing is original to Buffalo Rising.

View All Articles by Buffalo Rising
Hide Comments
Show Comments