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Meet Judith, the newest member of `armoured dinosaur` list

Elly Defries, a seven-year-old student from the outer Sydney suburb of Paramatta, watches a Triceratops (L) and a Tyrannosaurus at the launch of the Terrorsarus exhibition at the Australian Museum in Sydney October 30. The hands-on exhibit will bring the Jurassic era to life with eight moving and roaring robotic dinosaurs, 13 interactive exhibits that will propel visitors back 65 million years into the prehistoric past. MDB/CC

Washington: Move over Triceratops, there’s a cool new horned dinosaur in town. A spiky headed ancestor of triceratops, which stomped about the American north-west more than 65 million years ago, has made its debut at the Canadian Museum of Nature.

The museum now houses the specimen in its national fossil collection, which includes some of the best examples of horned dinosaurs in the world. Museum palaeontologist Dr. Jordan Mallon completed the scientific analysis that pinned down the dinosaur as a new species. It is one among a growing number of newly discovered ceratopsids (four-legged dinosaurs generally characterized by horns on the face and elaborate head frills).

Mallon has bestowed the scientific name Spiclypeus shipporum on the dinosaur, which lived about 76 million year ago. Spiclypeus is a combination of two Latin words meaning “spiked shield”, referring to the impressive head frill and triangular spikes that adorn its margins. The name shipporum honours the Shipp family, on whose land the fossil was found near Winifred, Montana.

About half of the skull, as well as parts of the dinosaur’s legs, hips and backbone had been preserved in the silty hillside that once formed part of an ancient floodplain.

“This is a spectacular new addition to the family of horned dinosaurs that roamed western North America between 85 and 66 million years ago,” explains Mallon, adding “It provides new evidence of dinosaur diversity during the Late Cretaceous period from an area that is likely to yield even more discoveries.”

What sets Spiclypeus shipporum apart from other horned dinosaurs such as the well-known Triceratops is the orientation of the horns over the eyes, which stick out sideways from the skull. There is also a unique arrangement to the bony “spikes” that emanate from the margin of the frill–some of the spikes curl forward while others project outward.

“In this sense, Spiclypeus is transitional between more primitive forms in which all the spikes at the back of the frill radiate outward, and those such as Kosmoceratops in which they all curl forward,” said Mallon.

While the fossil now has a scientific moniker, it is more commonly known by its nickname “Judith,” after the Judith River geological formation where it was found. Until it was purchased by the museum in 2015, the fossil had remained in the official possession of Dr. Bill Shipp, who found it while exploring his newly acquired property in 2005.

A public exhibit about Spiclypeus shipporum, will open May 24 at the Canadian Museum of Nature in Ottawa. It will include a reconstruction of the dinosaur’s skull, the diseased humerus, and other bones from this amazing fossil find. More details at nature.ca.

The study is published in the journal PLOS ONE. (ANI)