Dinosaurs have long remained a mystery. But recently, a new puzzle regarding the extinct species has emerged after the discovery of ancient fossils. Here's why the unique remains have left researchers completely stunned.
It all started when paleontologists at the Natural History Museum in London obtained fossils of the oldest Ankylosaur known to man. The researchers had purchased them for an undisclosed sum upon their discovery at a site in Morocco’s Middle Atlas mountains. Sure enough, the ancient remains were even more unique than they ever anticipated…
According to the study published in Nature Ecology and Evolution, the remains of the newly discovered animal had something never seen before: defensive spikes fused to the skeleton, a completely unprecedented feature in the animal kingdom. In fact, the discovery was so striking, scientists initially questioned the fossils' authenticity.
Sure enough, though, upon further inspection, the remains were proven to be authentic - dating back roughly 168 million years ago. As part of the middle Jurassic period, the Ankylosaur dinosaurs are said to have been large, herbivorous animals who grew up to seven meters-long and roughly four tons. In this case, specifically, the skeleton marks the first Ankylosaur found in Africa.
A new species of dinosaur has been described from Morocco!— Natural History Museum (@NHM_London) September 23, 2021
Check out Museum scientist Dr Susie Maidment (@Tweetisaurus) talking about this exciting new find and why it is unlike anything we have ever seen before. pic.twitter.com/BDKWGhFojP
“It’s totally, totally weird,” Dr. Susannah Maidment, a paleontologist from Londons’ Natural History Museum, explained of the study published on nature.com. “Normally, when we see armor in stegosaurus and ankylosaurs, the dermal armor is embedded in the skin, not attached to the skeleton. In this case, it’s not only in contact with the skeleton, it’s fused to the ribs.”
But while scientists can't quite wrap their heads around the unprecedented finding, they are hopeful it'll help fill in the gaps of other puzzles. "We don't see this in any other extant (still living) or extinct vertebrate anywhere. It's a totally unprecedented morphology in the history of life on Earth," Dr. Maidment explained.
Stay tuned while this story develops.