This timeline of ankylosaur research is a chronological listing of events in the history of paleontology focused on the ankylosaurs, quadrupedal herbivorous dinosaurs who were protected by a covering bony plates and spikes and sometimes by a clubbed tail. Although formally trained scientists did not begin documenting ankylosaur fossils until the early 19th century, Native Americans had a long history of contact with these remains, which were generally interpreted through a mythological lens. The Delaware people have stories about smoking the bones of ancient monsters in a magic ritual to have wishes granted and ankylosaur fossils are among the local fossils that may have been used like this. The Native Americans of the modern southwestern United States tell stories about an armored monster named Yeitso that may have been influenced by local ankylosaur fossils. Likewise, ankylosaur remains are among the dinosaur bones found along the Red Deer River of Alberta, Canada where the Piegan people believe that the Grandfather of the Buffalo once lived.
The first scientifically documented ankylosaur remains were recovered from Early Cretaceous rocks in England and named Hylaeosaurus armatus by Gideon Mantell in 1833. However, the Ankylosauria itself would not be named until Henry Fairfield Osborn did so in 1923 nearly a hundred years later. Prior to this, the ankylosaurs had been considered members of the Stegosauria, which included all armored dinosaurs when Othniel Charles Marsh named the group in 1877. It was not until 1927 that Alfred Sherwood Romer implemented the modern use of the name Stegosauria as specifically pertaining to the plate-backed and spike-tailed dinosaurs of the Jurassic that form the ankylosaurs' nearest relatives. The next major revision to ankylosaur taxonomy would not come until Walter Coombs divided the group into the two main families paleontologists still recognize today; the nodosaurids and ankylosaurids. Since then, many new ankylosaur genera and species have been discovered from all over the world and continue to come to light. Many fossil ankylosaur trackways have also been recognized.
The Delaware people of what is now New Jersey or Pennsylvania had a tradition regarding a hunting party that returned with a piece of an ancient bone supposedly belonging to a monster that killed humans. One of the village's wise men instructed people to burn bits of the bone in clay spoons with tobacco and make a wish while the concoction was still smoking. This ritual could bestow such favors as success in hunting, long life, and health for one's children. This tale might be inspired by local fossils, which include ankylosaurs, Coelosaurus, Dryptosaurus, and Hadrosaurus.
Traditional Navajo creation mythology portrays modern Earth as the most recent of a series of worlds. They believe that the earlier worlds were inhabited by monsters that were killed with lightning bolts wielded by the heroic Monster Slayers. The most terrifying monster of the old worlds was the Big Gray Monster, Yeitso. The Navajo of Arizona feared fossil remains, attributing them to his corpse. They believe that Yeitso's ghost still haunts his remains. Yeitso's flint-like scales may have been inspired by the fossilized armored plates of various prehistoric creatures that once lived in what is now the western US. Ankylosaurs like Ankylosaurus are one such potential candidate for the source of Yeitso's armored hide. Others include non-ankylosaurs like the Permian amphibian Eryops, Triassicphytosaurs and Desmatosuchus, as well as other armored dinosaurs like Scutellosaurus or Stegosaurus.
The Piegan people of Alberta attributed the fossils of dinosaurs to the "grandfather of the buffalo" they left offerings of cloth and tobacco to this mythical creature near the Red Deer River. Ankylosaur remains are among those preserved in the area that helped inspire this legend and associated practice, as are the remains of ceratopsians, hadrosaurs, and carnivorous theropods.
Sir Richard Owen published his second report on British fossil reptiles, wherein he formally named the Dinosauria.Hylaeosaurus was included as a founding member and was the third dinosaur to be named.
While collecting fossils in Dinosaur Provincial Park, William Edmund Cutler discovered the type specimen of an ankylosaur taxon that would later be named Scolosaurus cutleri in his honor. However, while undercutting the specimen it collapsed on him "resulting in serious upper body injuries."
Alfred Sherwood Romer published the first formal diagnosis for the Ankylosauria. He observed that the anatomy of the stegosaur pelvis and hindlimb as well as their primarily Jurassic age distinguished them from the mainly Cretaceousankylosaurs. As the Stegosauria originally included all armored dinosaurs, Romer's distinction marked the beginning of the modern use of the name to refer to the plate-backed and spike-tailed dinosaurs.
Sternberg described the new ichnogenus and species Tetrapodosaurus borealis from the Early Cretaceous Gething Formation of British Columbia, Canada. He attributed the tracks to ceratopsians, but they would later be attributed to ankylosaurs.
Walter Coombs published landmark research into ankylosaur taxonomy, bringing order to a once "chaotic and confused" field of study. He recognized two main groups of ankylosaurs, the Ankylosauridae and Nodosauridae. Coombs interpreted the ankylosaur diet as consisting of soft plants that ankylosaurs chewed with a simple straight-up-and-down movement of the jaws based on their skull and tooth anatomy.
Haubold reported the presence of the ichnospecies Metatetrapous valdensis from the Buckeburg Formation of Germany. This ichnospecies is attributed to ankylosaurs.
Teresa Maryanska described the new genus Tarchia for the species "Dyoplosaurus" giganteus. She also named the new species Tarchia kielanae and the new genus and species Saichania chulsanensis. She followed the scheme proposed by Coombs earlier that decade dividing the ankylosaurs into ankylosaurids and nodosaurids. She also made observations regarding ankylosaur limb posture, noting that while the hind limb was nearly straight up and down, the humerus was oriented at an angle downward and toward the rear of the animal. When studying the ankylosaur tail she noted that the centra of the vertebrae near its tip are fused, which would make it hard for the animal to raise the tail club very high.
Coombs published more work on ankylosaur taxonomy. He noted that ankylosaurs were probably completely unable to walk on their hind legs and published further remarks on ankylosaur limb posture. He argued that while some researchers interpreted some aspects of ankylosaur forelimb anatomy as adaptations for digging, their hoof-like toe nails made this interpretation unlikely.
Kenneth Carpenter attributed the ichnogenus Tetrapodosaurus reported by Sternberg from British Columbia in the 1930s to ankylosaurs rather than ceratopsians. He argued that the most likely trackmaker was Sauropelta.
Leonardi described the dinosaur footprints reported by Campbell the previous year in detail and named them Ligabuichnium bolivianum. Rather than sauropods, Leonardi argued that these tracks were produced by ankylosaurs or ceratopsians although it was difficult ascertain which of these taxa were responsible due to the poor preservation of the tracks.
Paul Ensom described dinosaur footprints from the Purbeck Beds of England once thought to have been left by sauropods. They are now thought to have been left by ankylosaurs.
Tumanova erected the new genus Maleevus to house the species Syrmosaurus disparoserratus. Tumanova followed the scheme proposed by Coombs earlier that decade dividing the ankylosaurs into ankylosaurids and nodosaurids.
Gasparini and others reported ankylosaur remains from Antarctica.
Currie reported the discovery of a Tetrapodosaurus track from British Columbia. Although he could not confidently identify its stratigraphic origin, the rock preserving the tracks has since been attributed to the Dunvegan Formation.
A worker at the Smoky River Coal Mine near Grande Cache, Alberta alerted the Royal Tyrell Museum to the presence of dinosaur footprints in the area. This site would come to be recognized as the most important ankylosaur track site in the world.
Coombs and Maryanska remarked that the boney secondary palate of the ankylosaur skull would have strengthened it by acting as a brace.
A well-preserved skeleton of Minmi was excavated from the Allaru Formation in Queensland, Australia by the Queensland Museum and catalogued as QM F18101. The skeleton was mostly articulated, including its armor. Since most ankylosaur specimens do not preserve the life arrangement of their armor, QM F18101 represented a rare find. The specimen also preserved the animal's gut contents, the first to be discovered in any armored dinosaur.
Thulborn proposed that the tail club of ankylosaurs may actually have functioned as a "false head" meant to distract predators. However, this hypothesis has not received much support from the paleontological community, and has been criticized as "dubiou[s]".
Grady published an illustration of an ankylosaur trackway from the "Mine" site in the Smoky River Coal Mine at Grande Cache, Alberta.
Psihoyos and Knoebber described a dinosaur track site in the Smoky Hill Coal Mine of Grande Cache, Alberta and reported that the site had been destroyed in a rock slide.
Whyte and Romano described the new ichnogenus and species Deltapodus brodericki for dinosaur footprints discovered in the Aalenian-Bajocian Saltwick Formation of Yorkshire, England. The authors attributed the tracks to sauropods, but they may actually have been made by ankylosaurs.
Leonardi concluded that the Bolivian Ligabuichnium tracks were made by an ankylosaur after all.
Coombs studied the anatomy of the tail of Euoplocephalus and concluded that its club was held just slightly off the ground rather than dragging or held and a significant height. He reiterated observations previously made in 1977 by Maryanska that the fusion of the vertebral centra near the tip of the animal's tail would make it difficult to raise very high.
Witmer studied archosaur "craniofacial pneumaticity". He concluded that rather than performing a biological function, paranasal sinuses in archosaurs "are best explained as an optimization of skull architecture". This cast doubt on various researchers' interpretations of the sometimes complex nasal cavities and sinus systems possessed by ankylosaurs. Past workers had thought that these cavities and sinuses may have given ankylosaurs an improved sense of smell, housed glands, acted as a resonating chamber for loud vocalizations, or helped conserve body heat and moisture.
Rybczynsky and Vickaryous studied the jaws and teeth of Euoplocephalus. Contrary to decades of support for ankylosaurs chewing with a simple straight-up-and-down movement, they noticed visible wear facets and microscopic grooves that could only be explained by relatively complex jaw movements.
Barrett reported wear facets on the teeth of Tarchia.
Molnar and Clifford described the gut contents preserved in a specimen of the Australian ankylosaur Minmi. This specimen is catalogued by the Queensland Museum as QM F18101 and was excavated by the museum from near the Flinders River in 1990. The stomach contents consisted of plant vascular tissue, fruiting bodies, seeds, and possible fern spores. Molnar and Clifford described it as the most reliable evidence for the diet of an herbivorous dinosaur ever discovered.
McCrea, Lockley, and Meyer observed that by this point in the history of ankylosaur research, ankylosaurs track fossils had been reported from North America, South America, Asia, and Europe. Most of these trackways were preserved in moist floodplain habitats where plant life was abundant. They attributed the Metatetrapous valdensis tracks from the Buckeburg Formation of Germany reported by Haubold in 1971 to ankylosaurs. They similarly argued that Macropodosaurus gravis of Tajikistan was produced by an ankylosaur rather than a theropod. The authors reported a single possible ankylosaur footprint from the Dakota Group of Baca County, Colorado. They also proposed that several footprint specimens collected from the Blackhawk Formation of Utah may have been ankylosaurian.
Vickaryous and Russell described the common ways ankylosaur skulls were distorted after death that could potentially confound anatomical interpretation. They noted a relationship between this tendency to suffer distortion and their unusual cranial traits like the fusion of the skull bones and their "embossing" cranial ornamentation.
Description of an assemblage of 12 partial, articulated or associated ankylosaurian skeletons and thousands of isolated bones and teeth from the Cretaceous (Santonian) Iharkút vertebrate locality (Hungary) will be published by Ősi et al. (2019).
A study on the evolution of morphological traits associated with tail weaponry in ankylosaurs and glyptodonts, aiming to quantitatively test the hypothesis that tail weaponry of these groups is an example of convergent evolution, is published by Arbour & Zanno (2019).
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^Burns, Michael E.; Currie, Philip J.; Sissons, Robin L.; Arbour, Victoria M. (2011). "Juvenile specimens of Pinacosaurus grangeri Gilmore, 1933 (Ornithischia: Ankylosauria) from the Late Cretaceous of China, with comments on the specific taxonomy of Pinacosaurus". Cretaceous Research. 32 (2): 174–186. doi:10.1016/j.cretres.2010.11.007.
^Burns, Michael E.; Tumanova, Tatiana A.; Currie, Philip J. (January 2015). "Postcrania of juvenile Pinacosaurus grangeri (Ornithischia: Ankylosauria) from the Upper Cretaceous Alagteeg Formation, Alag Teeg, Mongolia: implications for ontogenetic allometry in ankylosaurs". Journal of Paleontology. 89 (1): 168–182. doi:10.1017/jpa.2014.14. ISSN0022-3360.
^Héctor E. Rivera-Sylva; Eberhard Frey; Wolfgang Stinnesbeck; Gerardo Carbot-Chanona; Iván E. Sanchez-Uribe; José Rubén Guzmán-Gutiérrez (2018). "Paleodiversity of Late Cretaceous Ankylosauria from Mexico and their phylogenetic significance". Swiss Journal of Palaeontology. 137 (1): 83–93. doi:10.1007/s13358-018-0153-1.
^Peter M. Galton (2019). "Earliest record of an ankylosaurian dinosaur (Ornithischia: Thyreophora): Dermal armor from Lower Kota Formation (Lower Jurassic) of India". Neues Jahrbuch für Geologie und Paläontologie - Abhandlungen. 291 (2): 205–219. doi:10.1127/njgpa/2019/0800.
^Attila Ősi; Gábor Botfalvai; Gáspár Albert; Zsófia Hajdu (2019). "The dirty dozen: taxonomical and taphonomical overview of a unique ankylosaurian (Dinosauria: Ornithischia) assemblage from the Santonian Iharkút locality, Hungary". Palaeobiodiversity and Palaeoenvironments. in press. doi:10.1007/s12549-018-0362-z.
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Dongyangopelta is an extinct genus of nodosaurid ankylosaurian dinosaur known from the "middle" Cretaceous Chaochuan Formation (Albian or Cenomanian stage) of Dongyang, Zhejiang Province, China. Dongyangopelta was first named by Rongjun Chen, Wenjie Zheng, Yoichi Azuma, Masateru Shibata, Tianliang Lou, Qiang Jin and Xingsheng Jin in 2013 and the type species is Dongyangopelta yangyanensis. It differs from Zhejiangosaurus, the second nodosaurid from southeast China, in the characters of presacral rod, ilium, and femur. Donyangopelta is distinguishable from Zhejiangosaurus only on the basis of the morphology of its pelvic shield.
Dyoplosaurus (meaning "double-armored lizard") is an extinct genus of ankylosaurid dinosaurs within the subfamily Ankylosaurinae. It is known from the lower levels of the Late Cretaceous Dinosaur Park Formation (latest middle Campanian stage, about 76.5 Ma ago) of Alberta, Canada. It contains a single species, Dyoplosaurus acutosquameus.
Mymoorapelta ("Shield of Mygatt-Moore") is an ankylosaur from the Late Jurassic (Kimmeridgian-Tithonian) Morrison Formation (Brushy Basin Member) of western Colorado, USA. The taxon is known from portions of a disarticulated skull, parts of three different skeletons and other postcranial remains. It is present in stratigraphic zones 4 and 5 of the Morrison Formation.
Nodocephalosaurus is a genus of herbivorous ankylosaurine ankylosaurid dinosaur from Upper Cretaceous (late Campanian stage) deposits of San Juan Basin, New Mexico. The holotype was recovered from the Late Campanian De-na-zin Member of the Kirtland Formation and consists of an incomplete skull. Nodocephalosaurus (Greek nodus = knob, kephale = head and sauros = lizard) is a monotypic genus, including only the type species, Nodocephalosaurus kirtlandensis. Dinosaurs like Nodocephalosaurus resembled Asian forms, and may be evidence for Asian dinosaurs migrating to North America in the Late Cretaceous.
Pawpawsaurus, meaning "Pawpaw Lizard", is a nodosaurid ankylosaur from the Cretaceous (late Albian) of Tarrant County, Texas, discovered in May 1992. The only species yet assigned to this taxon, Pawpawsaurus campbelli, is based on a complete skull (lacking mandibles) from the marine Paw Paw Formation (Wachita Group).
Sarcolestes (meaning "flesh robber") is an extinct genus of ankylosaurian ornithischian dinosaur from the Oxford Clay of England. The current type and only species is S. leedsi, and the holotype is a single partial left mandible. The genus and species were named in 1893 by Richard Lydekker, who thought they belonged to a theropod.
Shanxia is a genus of ankylosaurid dinosaur that lived during the upper Cretaceous Period. Its fossils were recovered and named after the Shanxi Province of China, and it is known only from scrappy remains found in river deposits. Based on the relative lengths of the femur and other leg bones, it probably reached a length of around 3.6 metres (12 ft).
Barrett et al. (1998) distinguished Shanxia from other ankylosaurs in having long and flattened triangle-shaped horns that project backward from the squamosal bones on either side of the rear portion of its skull at an angle of 145 degrees. However, Sullivan (1999) considered Shanxia a nomen dubium, possibly synonymous with the related ankylosaurid Tianzhenosaurus, arguing that the unique shape of the squamosal horns could be a product of individual variation, but Upchurch and Barrett (2000) reaffirmed the validity of Shanxia. In their systematic review of ankylosaurids, Arbour and Currie (2015) treated Shanxia as a junior synonym of Saichania.
Texasetes (meaning "Texas resident") is a genus of ankylosaurian dinosaurs from the late Lower Cretaceous of North America. This poorly known genus has been recovered from the Paw Paw Formation (late Albian) near Haslet, Tarrant County, Texas, which has also produced the nodosaurid ankylosaur Pawpawsaurus. Texasetes is estimated to have been 2.5–3 m (8–10 ft) in length. It was named by Coombs in 1995.
Tianchisaurus (meaning "heavenly pool lizard") is a genus of ankylosaurian dinosaur from the middle Jurassic Period (Bajocian–Bathonian stages) of China. If it actually belongs to the family Ankylosauridae as proposed by Dong Zhiming, it would be the earliest member of that family. Unlike other ankylosaurids, it lacked a bony club at the tip of its tail.
The type specimen was informally referred to as "Jurassosaurus" after the 1993 film Jurassic Park, and the species epithet nedegoapeferima is formed from the surnames of the film's main stars: Sam Neill, Laura Dern, Jeff Goldblum, Richard Attenborough, Bob Peck, Martin Ferrero, Ariana Richards, and Joseph Mazzello. Director Steven Spielberg, who has funded Chinese dinosaur research, proposed the name. Dong Zhiming ultimately discarded the genus name "Jurassosaurus" (which is now a nomen nudum) in favor of Tianchisaurus, but retained the species name honoring the actors.
Tianzhenosaurus (Tianzhen + Greek sauros="lizard") is a genus of ankylosaurid dinosaurs discovered in Tianzhen County, at Kangdailiang near Zhaojiagou Village, in Shanxi Province, China, in the Late Cretaceous Huiquanpu Formation. Thus far, a virtually complete skull and postcranial skeleton have been assigned to the genus, which is monotypic (T. youngi Pang & Cheng, 1998).
This was a medium-sized ankylosaurian, the skull measuring 28 cm (11 in) in length, with a total body length around 4 m (13 ft).
Vickaryous et al. (2004) placed Tianzhenosaurus within the Ankylosauridae, nested as the sister group to Pinacosaurus. Some authors have suggested that Tianzhenosaurus is actually a junior synonym of Saichania chulsanensis.
Tsagantegia (; meaning "of Tsagan-Teg"; Tumanova, 1993) is a genus of medium-sized ankylosaurid dinosaur from the Late Cretaceous of Mongolia, during the Cenomanian stage.
The holotype specimen (GI SPS N 700/17), a complete skull, was recovered from the Bayan Shireh Formation (Cenomanian-Santonian), at the Tsagan-Teg ("White Mountain") locality, Dzun-Bayan, in the southeastern Gobi Desert, Mongolia. The genus is monotypic, including only the type species, T. longicranialis.
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