FROM THE EDUCATION DESK
Autumn (Sept. 22) is almost upon us and it is my favorite time of the year. Love all the colors! The kid’s are all back in school and will be looking forward to Halloween, dressing up as their favorite character and trick or treating with their friends. Do stop by the museum on your way to see the fall colors and enjoy our Halloween decorations starting Oct. 13th.
This dinosaur was found in 2008 in southern Utah near Grand Staircase, Escalante National Monument. It was named Akainacephalus after its spiky head and johnsoni after volunteer Randy Johnson who did much of the prep work on the find. Randall Irmis, Curator of Paleontology at the Natural History Museum of Utah and his team discovered this new dinosaur which lived about 76 million years ago. It has never been described before according to Irmis and has not been found anywhere else. It had many spikes and was an ankylosaurid, a group known for club tails and body armor.
The museum has nearly all of its skull, a large part of the vertebral column, limbs, ribs and much of its armor. It is the most complete ankylosaurid found in Utah so far, and provides significant clues to how dinosaurs evolved and spread around the world. It is more like ankylosaurids found in Asia than other species from North America. This could mean that ankylosaurids crossed a land bridge from Asia to North America at some point before 76 million years ago.
Akainacephalus has spiky bits on its head only found on a dinosaur found in New Mexico in 1999, Nodocephalosaurus kirtlandensis, and on specimens in Asia, mainly in Mongolia and China. This more than likely means they all had a common ancestor that must have been found in Asia.
This new dinosaur came from a site only partly excavated so far and which has many bones from this same time period. In this area of Utah the paleontological research has taken place for only around 30 years. This area of Utah is one of the last pieces of terrain in the lower 48 states to be mapped as It is less accessible than some other places. Irmis feels that Utah has one of the best fossil records in the United States.