Zuul, a new ankylosaur known based on an exceptional skeleton with soft tissue

Open AccessA new ankylosaurine dinosaur from the Judith River Formation of Montana, USA, based on an exceptional skeleton with soft tissue preservation
Victoria M. Arbour and David C. Evans
Royal Society Open Science 4: 161086.
DOI:
10.1098/rsos.161086.

Abstract
The terrestrial Judith River Formation of northern Montana was deposited over an approximately 4 Myr interval during the Campanian (Late Cretaceous). Despite having been prospected and collected continuously by palaeontologists for over a century, few relatively complete dinosaur skeletons have been recovered from this unit to date. Here we describe a new genus and species of ankylosaurine dinosaur, Zuul crurivastator, from the Coal Ridge Member of the Judith River Formation, based on an exceptionally complete and well-preserved skeleton (ROM 75860). This is the first ankylosaurin skeleton known with a complete skull and tail club, and it is the most complete ankylosaurid ever found in North America. The presence of abundant soft tissue preservation across the skeleton, including in situ osteoderms, skin impressions and dark films that probably represent preserved keratin, make this exceptional skeleton an important reference for understanding the evolution of dermal and epidermal structures in this clade. Phylogenetic analysis recovers Zuul as an ankylosaurin ankylosaurid within a clade of Dyoplosaurus and Scolosaurus, with Euoplocephalus being more distantly related within Ankylosaurini. The occurrence of Z. crurivastator from the upper Judith River Formation fills a gap in the ankylosaurine stratigraphic and geographical record in North America, and further highlights that Campanian ankylosaurines were undergoing rapid evolution and stratigraphic succession of taxa as observed for Laramidian ceratopsids, hadrosaurids, pachycephalosaurids and tyrannosaurids.

Featured image © Danielle Dufault, Royal Ontario Museum.

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