A new dinosaur species has been found and is set to be displayed at the Canadian Museum of Nature in Ottawa.
Named Spiclypeus shipporum, the dinosaur was first discovered in the Montana badlands in 2005 by amateur fossil-hunter Bill Shipp, a retired nuclear physicist who came upon the bones “accidentally on purpose” on his ranch near the Missouri River. “I was actually looking for dinosaur bones,” says Shipp, “But with no expectation of actually finding any.”
While its species name references both Mr. Shipp (shipporum) and the spiked shield (Spiclypeus) adorning the animal’s forehead, this particular fossil has been given the nickname Judith, after the fossil-bearing Judith River Formation of Montana where it was discovered.
Measuring approximately 15 feet in length and weighing over four tonnes, Judith is a member of the ceratopsid group of plant-eating dinosaurs (which includes the well-known Triceratops) from the Upper Cretaceous period and is estimated to have lived some 76 million years ago. And while this puts the total number of dinosaur species discovered in the Judith River Formation up to nine, researchers point out that none of these species have been found elsewhere in the more southerly regions of the U.S., suggesting that this diverse set dinosaurs species were unique to this part of the world.
Finding a new dinosaur is interesting enough but what has further caught the attention of paleontologists both amateur and professional is the revelation that Judith lived at least part of its life in poor health, with significant injuries to its neck frill and front left leg. Scientists studying its front left humerus -the bone connecting shoulder to elbow- found evidence of abscess cavities caused by a severe wound infection, one researchers say might have resulted from a fight with another horned dinosaur.
“It’s an exciting story, because it’s a new species, and yet we have this sort of pathetic individual that suffered throughout its lifetime,” says Jordan Mallon, paleontologist at the Canadian Museum of Nature and first author of the study on the new species. “If you’re hobbling along on three limbs, you’re probably not going to be able to keep up with the herd.”
The research team estimates that Judith would have been at least ten years old when it died. Currently the one and only representative of Spiclypeus shipporum, Judith will be part of a public exhibit at the Canadian Museum of Nature starting May 22.
Ceratopsidae have been found in Canada, as well. Just last year a new species was identified from more than 200 bones (representing the remains of at least four individuals, three adults and one juvenile) discovered in southern Alberta. Characterized by an elaborate series of hook-like horns on the edges of its shield-like frill, Wendiceratops pinhornensis is estimated to have lived about 79-million years ago and was named after well-known Albertan fossil hunter Wendy Sloboda who discovered the fossil site in 2010.
This leaves all of us wondering, of course, how long it will take for Canada’s museum curators to figure out the logistics so that Wendy and Judith can finally meet after all these years.