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Armored dinosaurs called ankylosaurs may have had hammer-like clubs that pushed against each other, as well as fending off predators like Tyrannosaurus rex.
The well-preserved fossil of ankylosaurus, a herbivorous dinosaur that lived 76 million years ago, is changing the way scientists understand and use armored dinosaurs.
Examination of the fossil revealed spikes on the sides of the dinosaur that had been cut and healed while the animal was still alive. Researchers believe the injuries occurred when another Ankylosaurus rammed the dinosaur with its tail club.
The study was published Tuesday in the journal Biology Letters.
Ankylosaurus wore bony plates of various sizes and shapes all over its body; Along the sides of its body, these plates acted as large spikes. Scientists also believe that ankylosaurs could use their weapon-like tails to assert social dominance, establish territory, or even fight for mates.
Ankylosaurus using its tail to fight against each other is similar to the way animals like deer and antelope use their antlers and antlers to fight each other today.
The fossil is of a member of a particular species of ankylosaurus known by its taxonomic name, Zuul Cruvivastat. If the name sounds familiar, that’s because researchers borrowed Zul’s name from a monster in the 1984 movie “Ghostbusters.”
The full name of the dinosaur means “Zul, destroyer of Shin”, because the tail stick of Ankylosaurus would have been the enemy of dinosaurs and other predators that walked upright on their hind legs.
These tails were up to 10 feet (3 m) long, with rows of sharp spikes on the sides. The tip of the tail was fortified with bony skeletons, creating a club that could swing with the force of the hammer.
The skull and tail were the first pieces of the fossil to turn up in 2017 from a dig site in the Judith River Formation in northern Montana, and paleontologists have worked for years to free the fossil remains from 35,000 pounds of sandstone. The fossil is so well preserved that remnants of skin and bony armor remain on the back and sides of the dinosaur, giving it a very realistic appearance.
This particular Ankylosaurus looked quite battered at the end of its life, with ridges near the hips and nails missing from the sides. After sustaining these injuries, Bone has recovered in very lackluster form.
Because of the body’s location, the researchers do not believe the wounds were caused by a predator attack. Instead, the pattern resembles the result of the powerful snap of the tail stick of another ankylosaurus.
“I’ve been interested in how ankylosaurs used their tail sticks for years, and this is a really exciting new piece of the puzzle,” said lead author of the study and curator of paleontology at the Royal British Columbia Museum in Victoria, Canada. , in a report.
“We know that ankylosaurs could use their clubs to deliver very powerful blows to an opponent, but most people thought they used their clubs to fight off predators. Alternatively, ankylosaurs like Zuul may have been battered.
Arbour proposed the hypothesis that ankylosaurs may have adopted their behavior years ago, but fossil evidence of injuries was needed—and ankylosaur fossils are scarce.
The extraordinary fossil fossil from Zuul helped fill in this knowledge gap.
Study co-author Dr David Evans, Temerty Chair and Curator of Vertebrate Paleontology at the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto, said in a report.
Zuul’s fossil is currently in the vertebrate fossil collection at the Royal Ontario Museum.