A team lead by Denver Fowler, a paleontologist at the Dickinson Museum Center, and Liz Freedman-Fowler discovered a new species of dinosaur in Montana.
The fossil discovered dates back about 76 million years ago and is from a type of nodosaur.
Fowler and Freedman-Fowler have the skull and know that it’s related to the ankylosaurus due to the large spikes on its body.
“Documenting new species is an important contribution to the field of science,” said Lydia Tackett, assistant professor of geosciences. “The relationship of this species to other species with this dinosaur will clarify and potentially support previously unrecognized relationships between dinosaurs and, depending on the adaptations this specimen exhibits, may lead to better understandings of the environment in which this animal lived over 65 million years ago.”
The team worked in Rudyard, Montana and plan on applying for 10 excavation permits next year.
“If you find a big bone, you can dig one meter square around the bone without a prospecting permit. So if the bones develop, you’ve got to find a good stopping place. You dig until you know what you’ve got and then cover up the site until next year” to protect the bones over the winter, the Forum reported.
Tackett said, “It depends on how many fossils are at the site — some sedimentary deposits are filled with fossils so a paleontologist or field worker could find a nice specimen within a few days, although extracting the specimen usually takes much, much longer. Other deposits only contain sparse fossils or rare complete fossils, so it can take weeks, sometimes months.”
Fossil discoveries have to include information about the surrounding areas’ sediments to know how old the fossil is and the environment in which it lived.
The area could be up to 79 million years old and have once resembled modern-day swamps in Louisiana. The site was dated from two ash deposits created during the formation of the Rocky Mountains.
Tackett said, “Some groups of dinosaurs are studied by a lot of people and have a good fossil record, and so new discoveries of species can be rare because the most abundant groups have likely been found, and we are looking now for only the rare species.”
The skull was brought back to Dickinson and will have to be cleaned as Fowler and Freedman-Fowler’s team begins writing a paper to describe the new species.
“Scientists that found the specimen will work to carefully clean the specimen so that the morphological features can be seen,” Tackett said. “Those features will be how they compare this specimen to other known and described groups, and if it is a new species, these features will be illustrated and described for scientific publications so that other people can compare their specimens to this one.”