January 22, 2009
During the Late Cretaceous, 100 to 65 million years ago, the area now known as the Gobi Desert was a dangerous place, stalked by small hunters like Velociraptor and massive tyrannosaurs like Tarbosaurus. But one group of herbivorous dinosaurs appears to have done well in this harsh place. Several kinds of ankylosaurs are known from these deposits, and a new genus, Minotaurasaurus, has just been described.
This new ankylosaur was described, in the journal Current Science (PDF), from a complete skull—but not one that was found out in the field. Instead, paleontologists noticed it when it was put on display at the Victor Valley Museum in California. From the sediment that still encased part of the skull and other evidence, the researchers concluded that this dinosaur came from the Cretaceous deposits of the Gobi desert.
If this analysis is correct, Minotaurasaurus may have lived alongside other well-known ankylosaurs from the region, such as Tarchia, Pinacosaurus and Saichania. In fact, the skull of Minotaurasaurus is strikingly similar to that of Saichania. Is it possible that the “new” ankylosaur is a representative of the already known genus? This specimen might fall within the range of variation exhibited by the better-known genus, and further study will be needed to determine what this new skull represents.
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