What do Ghostbusters and one of the last non-avian dinosaurs have in common?
Quirky scientists, naturally – they’re after naming a new sub-species after Zuul, the fridge-haunting monster from the 1984 classic.
Zuul crurivastator strolled around on all fours and packed a lot of armour on its wide body, with large horns covering everywhere from head to toe. Discovered in Montana and subsequently reconstructed, this is the most complete North American ankylosaurine skeleton ever.
An abundance of soft tissue was found preserved across the skeleton, making this fossil an important reference point for understanding the evolution of skin structures in this dino class.
Victoria Arbour, Department of Paleobiology at the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) along with co-author David C. Evans published their study of the 75 million-year-old fossil. The excellent state of preservation is the basis for their call to excavate more of the upper Judith River Formation, as this is a “historically significant” geological area.
Prehistoric wrecking ball
This is the first time an ankylosaurine fossil has been found with its tail club and skull intact. The tail club is unique to ankylosaurs and made for quite the weapon; it was effectively a wrecking ball used to bash away predators or rival ankylosaurs competing for mates or food.
The fruits of this fossil don’t stop there, however, as this discovery also solves a major piece of the puzzle regarding the species’ geographic and stratigraphic record.
The authors claim they now have evidence that this species was “undergoing rapid evolutionary rates” similar to other Laramidian dinosaur classes.
As for the marriage between Ghostbusters and such a significant paleontological find, how can that not bring a smile to your face? Scientists aren’t as dry and dull as you think.