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New Dinosaur Species Unearthed from New Mexico has Relatives in Alberta

First Posted: Sep 25, 2014 07:57 AM EDT

A newly unearthed armoured dinosaur from New Mexico may be closely related to the dinosaurs of Alberta, a new study has revealed.

Paleontologists at the University of Alberta have discovered a new species of dinosaur in 2011 in Bisti/De-na-zin Wilderness area of New Mexico. The species, dubbed as Ziapelta sanjuanensis, was discovered by Bob Sullivan. Producing pictures, Sullivan reported that the new species was closely related to ankylosaurs discovered in Alberta.

From 76-66 million years ago, nearly five species of ankylosaurid dinosaurs were discovered. This group includes club-tailed giants like Ankylosaurus and a fewer ankylosaurids are from the southern parts of North America. According to the researchers, Ziapelta varies from ankylosaurs due to its tall spikes on the cervical half ring and also the skull is different from that of the ankylosaurs.

"The horns on the back of the skull are thick and curve downwards, and the snout has a mixture of flat and bumpy scales -- an unusual feature for an ankylosaurid," notes PhD. graduate Victoria Arbour. "There's also a distinctive large triangular scale on the snout, where many other ankylosaurids have a hexagonal scale."

Ziapelta is known to belong to the Late Cretaceous period. Several ankylosaur fossils were found from the rocky formations of southern Alberta, but none have been discovered in the lower part of the area called Horseshoe Canyon Formation - indicating a gap in Alberta's anklyosaur fossil record.

"The rocks in New Mexico fill in this gap in time, and that's where Ziapelta occurs," said Arbour. "Could Ziapelta have lived in Alberta, in the gap where we haven't found any ankylosaur fossils yet? It's possible, but in recent years there has also been increasing evidence that the dinosaurs from the southern part of North America -- New Mexico, Texas, and Utah, for example -- are distinct from their northern neighbours in Alberta."

According to the team, loads of Ziapelta fossils have to be unearthed from Alberta's Badlands.

The finding is documented in the journal PLOS One.

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