Saturday, April 20

We have discovered a new species of dinosaur: this time it does not have feathers, but an amazing “armor”


Its name doesn’t say much, but the characteristics of the Yuxisaurus kopchicki, the species of dinosaur that has just been identified in China, makes for a fascinating creature worthy of Jurassic World’s best special effects. His body, about two or three meters long, was covered with a cuirass like armor. This is how it is described at least by the group of scientists who presented it this week in an article published in the specialized magazine eLife.

The herbivorous creature that roamed what is now Asia millions of years ago — between 192 and 174, to be more precise — is relevant not only because of its characteristics or novelty. It also provides a new piece to complete the puzzle that allows experts to find out how and where the thyreophorans evolved, a group of dinosaurs known by the “shields” spread throughout their bodies. Yuxisaurus kopchicki it is unique in that it is the first such creature with well-preserved remains that scientists have managed to document in Asia in the Early Jurassic.

One more piece of the puzzle

The new creature would thus be “contemporary” with similar species already recorded in other latitudes, such as Germany or the United Kingdom. “Until recently we assumed that the evolution of armored dinosaurs occurred in the north, but the new findings show that this is not true,” says Professor Paul Barrett, a researcher at the Natural History Museum (NHM).

The discovery, he says, helps confirm that the first armored dinosaurs also lived in Asia in the Early Jurassic. “We know very little about the overall early history of herbivorous dinosaurs in China, so this represents a very important find.”

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The “family” of ironclads includes the ankylosaurus and Stegosaurusperhaps its most famous representative for the crest with plates that ran down its back. yuxisaurus is however prior to them and shows peculiarities that differentiate it from other primitive thyreophorans, such as a particularly robust structure or a very characteristic arrangement in its plates and spikes. “It was mainly adapted to walk on four legs, but it could also walk on two legs,” explains Shundong Bi, a paleontologist at Indiana University. ScienceNews.

Elife 75248 Fig17 V2

“Although we have had tantalizing fragments of Asia’s earliest armored dinosaurs, this is the first time we have enough material to recognize a new species from the region and investigate its evolutionary history,” Prof. Barrett continues. “I hope it will be the first of many new dinosaurs from the localities that my colleagues in Yunnan are discovering.”

“This new taxon, Yuxisaurus kopchickirepresents the first valid thyreophoran dinosaur described from the early Jurassic of Asia and confirms the rapid geographical expansion and diversification of the clade after its first appearance in the Hettangian. Its heavy build and distinctive armor also hint at a previously unnoticed morphological diversity,” confirms the study. Thanks to this peculiarity, it is also the oldest battleship located in Asia to date.

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Scientists have been able to discover the yuxisaurus thanks to the traces located in 2017 in the Fengjiahe Formation, in the Yunnan province. “The fossil consists of a fairly complete skeleton that includes skull parts, vertebrae, limb parts and lots and lots of armor. It is the oldest and best-preserved example of a battleship in Asia,” recalls Barrett. Later, a study showed that it was “close to the common ancestry” of stegosaurs and ankylosaurs.

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Images | Yu Chen and Yao et al.

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