Scientists have discovered fossils of a 75-million-year-old armored dinosaur that shares an uncanny resemblance to “Zuul,” the monster from the 1984 Hollywood movie Ghostbusters. Besides appearing familiar to Ghostbusters fans, the fossils were well-preserved. Due to its resemblance to the movie monster, scientists have named the newly discovered ankylosaur as Zuul crurivastator.
The Zuul crurivastator fossils are remarkably complete
The species name “crurivastator” translates to “the destroyer of shins” in Latin. Researchers said the species name was inspired by the giant club at the end of its tail. Its body sported bony armor and spikes, and the species lived during the Cretaceous period. Lead researcher Victoria Arbour of the Royal Ontario Museum said in a statement that it was the “most complete ankylosaurid ever found in North America.”
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The specimen had a complete skull, a tail club and well-preserved soft-tissues. David Evans, the co-author of the study, said a large part of the bony armor was still in its natural position. Skin impressions are still visible on the tail. Soft tissues such as the scales and horny sheaths of spikes were also preserved. Evans said the soft tissues would be the focus of their team’s future research.
How did they use their 10-foot long tail?
Just like the Ghostbusters monster, Zuul crurivsatator had a rounded, short snout, large horns behind the eyes, and an armored face. Its 10-foot long tail had sharp spikes and a large bony club. Scientists believe the species used its tail to strike predators in the legs. It may also have used the tail to battle rival members of their own species over mates or territory.
The species weighed about 2,500kg and measured up to 20 feet in length. The study, published in the journal Royal Society Open Science, shows that the ankylosaurs underwent rapid evolution during the late Cretaceous period in North America. Paleontologists said the newly discovered specimen would help them visualize what the species looked like when it was alive. Bone fragments from other ankylosaurs have been found before, but without the complete picture, it is difficult to determine what those bones are.
First ankylosaur from the formation to get a scientific name
The Zuul crurivsatator fossils were unearthed from the Judith River Formation in Montana in 2016. Some of the first dinosaur fossils found in North America were unearthed from the same site. The Zuul fossils were recovered when a group of private excavators bumped into the skeleton, which was buried under several feet of rock, while trying to unearth a tyrannosaurus nearby.
Victoria Arbour said the thickness of the rock probably helped keep the specimen well-preserved for millions of years. Also, it is the first ankylosaur from the Judith River Formation that has been given a scientific name.