Although they echo beings straight out of fantasy novels, armored dinosaurs are a well-known crew. Ranging from the sharply adorned Kentosaurus to the curvy backed Hesperosaurus, paleontologists have already studied a long list of the physically shielded animals. But this new member of the warrior-like troop of beings piqued researchers’ interest because of its specialized armament that could’ve once sliced through enemies.
The team dubbed the 2-meter (about 6-foot-6-inch) long species Stegouros elengassen due to the rest of its body resembling the Stegosaurus genus — aka Spike from The Land Before Time. Later, extensive DNA analysis and cranial examination revealed the animal to be more closely related to a dinosaur group called Ankylosaurs, but the team decided to keep the initial name.
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He said that one of the most surprising outcomes about this discovery was the revelation of an entirely new lineage of Southern Hemisphere armored dinosaurs that had evolved its own posterior weaponry — independently of plated dinosaurs, or Stegosaurs, and densely armored dinosaurs, or Euankylosaurs.
A stegouros chomping on some leaves.
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“It was an animal with a proportionally large head and a narrow snout with a beak,” Sergio Soto Acuña, lead author of the study and a doctoral student at the University of Chile said. “However, the most notable feature is the caudal weapon: the posterior half of the tail is enclosed in a structure made up of fused bony plates that give the tail a very strange appearance.” Fossils found in Chile are from the bizarre dog-sized dinosaur species called Stegouros that had a unique slashing tail weapon.