Armored dinosaur with spiky head unveiled at Utah museum

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A life reconstruction of the head of the new armored dinosaur Akainacephalus johnsoni, which lived 76 million years ago in Utah, U.S. is seen in this image provided July 19, 2018. (REUTERS)
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This undated photo from the Natural History Museum of Utah shows the heavily ornamented skull of an ankylosaur, a squat plant-eater that was covered in bony armor from its spiky head to its clubbed tail, before its unveiling at the museum in Salt Lake City. (AP)
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In this July 19, 2018 photo, a fresh mount of new fossils of a new genus and species of ankylosaur dubbed Akainacephalus johnsoni are displayed at the Natural History Museum of Utah, in Salt Lake City, Utah. (AP)
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In this July 19, 2018 photo, volunteer Randy Johnson, left, and Randy Irmis, paleontology curator at the Natural History Museum of Utah, pose next to a fresh mount of new fossils of a new genus and species of ankylosaur dubbed Akainacephalus johnsoni in Salt Lake City, Utah. (AP)
Updated 21 July 2018
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Armored dinosaur with spiky head unveiled at Utah museum

  • Paleontologists believe the animals migrated to North America several times over the eons when lowered sea levels allowed them to cross a land bridge
  • The fossil was discovered on the Kaiparowits Formation, a thick layer of sandstone that also has vast coal reserves inside a sprawling national monument

SALT LAKE CITY: A dinosaur that was covered in bony armor from its spiky head to its clubbed tail has been unveiled at a museum in Utah.
The species of ankylosaur was a squat plant-eater that roamed southern Utah on four legs about 76 million years ago, during the late Cretaceous Period. At that time, the desert state was hot and humid, covered with slow-moving streams and rivers as well as large conifer trees, paleontologist Randall Irmis said.
It was about as long as a large alligator and stood at a height that would have been about waist-high for a tall human. It likely used its distinctive clubbed tail and armor for protection, though they could also have been used for display.
The fossil unveiled Thursday at the Natural History Museum of Utah was first discovered in 2008 in the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, a rich dinosaur repository in southern Utah.
The fossil was discovered on the Kaiparowits Formation, a thick layer of sandstone that also has vast coal reserves inside a sprawling national monument that was one of two President Donald Trump ordered downsized last year. The spot where the fossil was found remains within Grand Staircase-Escalante boundaries, though areas that are now outside the boundaries also have fossil potential, Irmis said.
Researchers were expecting it to have smooth bony armor on its skull like other North American ankylosaurs, but were surprised to find evidence that it instead had spiky armor on its head and snout, similar to fossils found in Asia.
Paleontologists believe the animals migrated to North America several times over the eons when lowered sea levels allowed them to cross a land bridge.
The species was dubbed Akainacephalus johnsoni to recognize Randy Johnson, a retired chemist and museum volunteer who spent hundreds of hours painstakingly freeing the skull from rock and debris.
Along with a complete skull, the fossil also includes the distinctive tail club, large parts of its spinal vertebral column and parts of its body armor, including two neck rings and spiked armor plates, the museum said in a statement.


Europe, Japan send spacecraft on 7-year journey to Mercury

Updated 20 October 2018
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Europe, Japan send spacecraft on 7-year journey to Mercury

  • Once the spacecraft arrives in late 2025, it will release two probes that will independently investigate the planet

TOKYO: European and Japanese space agencies say an Ariane 5 rocket has successfully lifted a spacecraft into orbit for a joint mission to Mercury, the closest planet to the sun.
The European Space Agency and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency say the BepiColombo spacecraft successfully separated and was sent into orbit from French Guiana early Saturday to begin a seven-year journey to Mercury.
The mission is complicated by the intense gravity pull of the sun, forcing the spacecraft to take an elliptical path that involves two fly-bys of Venus and six of Mercury itself.
Once the spacecraft arrives in late 2025, it will release two probes that will independently investigate the surface and magnetic field of Mercury.