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Meet ‘Judith’: Newly-discovered dinosaur fossil reveals exotic spikes and horns

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Two newly discovered dinosaurs unearthed in the western U.S. states of Montana and Utah are illustrating the exotic appearance some of these beasts developed, with fanciful horns and spikes, toward the end of their reign on Earth.

Scientists on Wednesday announced the discovery of fossils of two species that provide new insights into an important group of truck-sized, four-legged, plant-munching, horned dinosaurs that roamed the landscape late in the Cretaceous Period.

Both dinosaurs were members of a group called ceratopsians that included the well-known Triceratops, typically possessing parrot-like beaks to crop low-growing herbs and shrubs, a bony neck shield, or frill, and forward-pointing facial horns.

Fossils of Machairoceratops cronusi, which lived about 77 million years ago, were found in Utah’s Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.

Machairoceratops, up to 26 feet (8 meters) long, had two large, forward-curving spikes coming out of the back of its shield, each marked by a peculiar groove extending from the base of the spike to the tip, Ohio University paleontologist Eric Lund said. Machairoceratops also had two horns over its eyes and probably one over its nose, although the incomplete fossils did not show that.

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Fossils of Spiclypeus shipporum, which lived about 76 million years ago, were discovered near the town of Winifred, Montana.

Spiclypeus, about 15 feet (4.5 meters) long, boasted brow horns sticking out sideways rather than pointing forward, paleontologist Jordan Mallon of the Canadian Museum of Nature in Ottawa said. It had spikes at the back of its frill that pointed in different directions: some curling forward and others projecting outward, Mallon said.

“We think the horns and frills were probably used for display of some sort, either for sexual or species recognition,” Mallon said.

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This Spiclypeus individual was dubbed “Judith” because the fossils came from the Judith River rock formation. Judith apparently lived a painful life. The upper bone in its left front leg bore signs of disease: arthritis near the shoulder joint and a hole near the elbow caused by a bone infection.

“I think Spiclypeus wins top prize for being the most aesthetically pleasing horned dinosaur, but that’s my bias talking,” Mallon said.

“I think a visitor to the Late Cretaceous would have been immediately intimidated by standing in the shadow of Judith’s spiky skull, but then overcome with sympathy after noting the animal ambling about painfully on only three legs.”

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The research was published in the journal PLOS ONE.

(Reporting by Will Dunham; Editing by Sandra Maler)


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Judge blocks effort to conceal details in Trump campaign crimes case as Bill Barr’s DOJ mysteriously closes the probe

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A federal judge confirmed on Wednesday that the Justice Department has ended its investigation into campaign finance crimes committed by former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen, indicating that no one else will face charges in the case. But Judge William Pauley also announced that, over the government’s objections, he will be making many of the underlying documents in the case public without requested redactions.

The case stemmed from Cohen’s efforts during the 2016 campaign to secure hush money payments for two women who said they had affairs with Donald Trump. Since investigators determined these payments were done in order to help secure Trump’s victory, the spending counted as campaign contributions that were never recorded and were, in fact, illegally concealed. The Trump Organization, Cohen has said, helped repay him for the costs of the hush money while disguising the payment falsely as a legal retainer.

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Rand Paul just blocked the 9/11 victim fund because it isn’t paid for — but didn’t care when it was a $1.5 trillion tax cut

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Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) blocked a call for unanimous consent on Wednesday to push forward with a funding extension for the victims of 9/11, claiming that the new spending should be paid for.

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) called for the bill to be passed in the Senate by unanimous consent, but even a single lawmaker’s objection can block the move and slow down the process. The measure is still widely expected to pass, but Paul wants to use the opportunity to complain about the national debt.

“We need to address our massive debt in this country,” he said “We have a $22 trillion debt. We’re adding debt at about a trillion dollars a year. And therefore any new spending that we are approaching, any new program that’s going to have the longevity of 70-80 years, should be offset by cutting spending that’s less valuable. We need to at least have this debate.”

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Breakthrough technique eradicates mosquitoes

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A breakthrough technique harnessing two methods to target disease-carrying mosquitoes was able to effectively eradicate buzzing biters in two test sites in China, according to research published on Thursday.

The mosquitoes targeted are a type that is particularly difficult to control called Aedes albopictus -- more popularly known as the Asian tiger mosquito -- which are a major vector for diseases including Zika and dengue.

The study "demonstrates the potential of a potent new tool", wrote Peter Armbruster, a professor at Georgetown University's department of biology, in a review of the work.

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