Dinosaurs roamed Earth millions of years ago but little was known about them outside the scientific community till the early 90s. Interesting details about these prehistoric reptiles are now being discovered after studying dinosaur fossils. One of these fossils has revealed that a strange dinosaur with spiky, armored skin lived around 150 million years ago. Scientists have identified this dinosaur as the ankylosaur, a close relative of the more well-known stegosaurus.
Until now, limited fossil records prevented researchers from knowing the true range of this ancient creature. But they have found now that the ankylosaur likely walked diverse parts of Earth between the late Jurassic and early Cretaceous periods. Published in the journal Nature Ecology & Evolution recently, the study reveals details about these bizarre-looking dinsoaurs and says the oldest known ankylosaur was found in Africa. It also says more interesting discoveries related to the reptiles could be made in Africa.
The scientists, including lead author Susannah Maidment, a researcher at the Natural History Museum in London, used X-ray technology to analyse a fossil, named NHMUK PV R37412, from the Natural History Museum of London. The specimen, containing a rib with four rows of spines, originated in Morocco.
The researchers said the fossil dated back to the Middle Jurassic period (about 163–168 million years ago). They say the ankylosaur had a “bizarre” armour that’s fused to the animal’s rib and protrudes — a unique physiology that has never been seen in any vertebrate so far.
“This is weird because animals have muscles that run across the surface of the ribs. This ankylosaur must have had a different arrangement of muscles across its back,” Maidment told Inverse. She says no known vertebrate, living or extinct, has armour fused to its bones.