May 9, 2013
Making Four New Dinosaur Species Out Of One
Brett Smith for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online
Thanks to hard work and determination, a University of Alberta researcher has found four new species of armored dinosaurs that were originally considered to be the same species.
Back in the early part of the twentieth century, archeologists“¯had determined that several groups of ankylosaur fossils were four individual species of the dinosaur group based on small differences in the skull armor and the tail clubs. Ankylosaurs have been described as small, tank-like, armor-plated, plant eaters.
"In the 1970s the earlier work was discarded and those four species were lumped into one species called“¯Euoplocephalus," said biology graduate student Victoria Arbour in a statement. "I examined many fossils and found I could group some fossils together because their skull armour corresponded with a particular shape of their tail club.”
To resurrect the distinctions between these species, Arbour visited“¯dinosaur fossil collections from Canada to the United Kingdom, examining and comparing skull armor among the fossilized ankylosaur remains.
Arbour said that finding several common features in fossils is evidence that the original researchers from the 1930s were right, according to her report in the open-access journal PLOS ONE.
"There were in fact four different species represented by what scientists previously thought was only one species, Euoplocephalus," she said.
While dating techniques have shown that the ankylosaur remains span a period of about 10 million years, Arbour's study suggests that three of those species lived around the same time in what is modern-day southern Alberta.
Arbour said her findings will undoubtedly lead to more questions and research into the ancient creatures.
"How did these three species shared their habitat, how did they divide food resources and manage to survive?" she asked.
Arbour said she expects to look into how minor variations in skull and tail shape among the species influenced the dinosaurs´ sustainability.
The fossil remains in Arbour´s study were collected from the Dinosaur Park Formation, a geologic formation in southern Alberta. The area is renowned for its dense collection of dinosaur fossils.
Another archeological site about 100 miles away yielded the discovery of a new species, a group of Canadian researchers announced earlier this week.
According to the team´s report in the journal Nature Communications, they discovered two “skull caps” of a previously unknown dinosaur species in the Milk River area of southern Alberta.
Dubbed Acrotholus audeti, the fossils potentially represent the oldest bone-headed dinosaur in the world, dating back to roughly 85 million years ago.
“Acrotholus provides a wealth of new information on the evolution of bone-headed dinosaurs. Although it is one of the earliest known members this group, its thickened skull dome is surprisingly well-developed for its geological age,” said David Evans, a curator of paleontology at the Royal Ontario Museum.
“More importantly, the unique fossil record of these animals suggests that we are only beginning to understand the diversity of small-bodied plant-eating dinosaurs.”
Based on imaging scans and computer models, the scientists believe that Acrotholus used its domed skull as a weapon to battle rivals, as they are highly resistant to damage and injury.