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Falling for the Positively Medieval ‘Ankylosaurus’

Falling for the Positively Medieval ‘Ankylosaurus’

Many of our fellow fossils develop a deep and soulful relationship with certain dinos. As a kid (and fan of The Flintstones), I loved the iconic Brontosaurus. And as an admitted alpha female, I’ll always hold dear Tyrannosaurus rex. Lately, though, I’ve been drawn to the quirky and somewhat homely Ankylosaurus. (I’ve always fallen for quirky.) Wielding a tail as powerful as a medieval mace, and sturdily armored, Ankylosaurus has been called a “living tank” by its scores of admirers.

Every Ankylosaur had its particular style of protective plates and club. I favor A. magniventris, whose clubbed tail may have evolved as a defensive measure, for display, and to give a predator—they shared space with my adored T. rex, whose powerful bite was second to none—a good, hard swipe. And like military tanks, movement was slow. Its armor, low profile, and weight enabled the “fused lizard” to successfully amble alongside ferocious rex and other foes. Our squat hero was indeed a heavyweight, carrying a good five tons or more. Imagine all the low-lying plants and roots it had to strip to satisfy its massive cravings!

This past spring, a research team announced what is probably the first known fossilized larynx of a dinosaur—the ankylosaur Pinacosaurus grangeri (discovered in Mongolia in 2005). Their reconstruction revealed vocal structures that point to the ability to utter birdlike calls, though perhaps not the melodic songs we associate with modern avians. Scientists have also proposed that because of its complex sinuses (maybe that’s why I can relate!) and large olfactory bulb, this rotund creature may have been able to accurately sniff out enemies or unearth tasty treats.

Ankylosaurus roamed Western North America in the Late Cretaceous Period. The first specimen was discovered in the Hell Creek Formation of Montana in 1906 by a team led by American paleontologist Barnum Brown.  


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