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 Ankylosaurus

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PostSubject: Ankylosaurus   Wed Oct 26, 2016 5:00 pm

See moreAnkylosaurus (/ˌæŋkəloʊˈsɔːrəs/ ANG-kə-lo-SAWR-əs[1]) is a genus of armored dinosaur. Fossils of Ankylosaurus have been found in geological formations dating to the very end of the Cretaceous Period, between about 68–66 million years ago, in western North America, making it among the last of the non-avian dinosaurs. It was named by Barnum Brown in 1908, and the only species classified in the genus is A. magniventris. The genus name means "fused lizard" and the specific name means "great belly". A handful of specimens have been excavated to date, but a complete skeleton has not been discovered. Though other members of Ankylosauria are represented by more extensive fossil material, Ankylosaurus is often considered the archetypal member of its group.

The largest known ankylosaurid, Ankylosaurus measured up to 6.25 m (20.5 feet) in length, 1.7 m (5.6 feet) in height, and weighed 6 tonnes (13,000 lb). It was a quadrupedal animal, with a broad, robust body. It had a wide, low skull, with two horns pointing backwards from the back of the head, and two horns below these that pointed backwards and down. The front part of the jaws were covered in a beak, with rows of small, leaf-shaped teeth further behind it. It was covered in armor plates, or osteoderms, with bony half-rings covering the neck, and had a large club on the end of its tail. Bones in the skull and other parts of the body were fused, increasing their strength, and this feature is the source of the genus name.

Ankylosaurus is a member of the family Ankylosauridae, and its closest relatives appear to be Anodontosaurus and Euoplocephalus. Ankylosaurus is thought to have been a slow moving animal, able to make quick movements when necessary. Its broad muzzle indicates it was a non-selective browser. Sinuses and nasal chambers in the snout may have been for heat and water balance or played a role in vocalization. The tail club is thought to have been used in defense against predators or in intraspecific combat. Ankylosaurus has been found in the Hell Creek, Lance, and Scollard formations, but appears to have been rare in its environment. Although it lived alongside a nodosaurid ankylosaur, their ranges and ecological niches do not appear to have overlapped, and Ankylosaurus may have inhabited upland areas. Ankylosaurus also lived alongside dinosaurs such as Tyrannosaurus, Triceratops, and Edmontosaurus.
Ankylosaurus is the largest known ankylosaurid dinosaur, estimated to have been up to 6.25 m (20.5 feet) long, 1.5 m (4.9 feet) wide, and 1.7 m (5.6 feet) tall at the hip. This length has been proposed by American palaeontologist Kenneth Carpenter, and is based on the largest known skull (specimen NMC 8880), which is 64.5 cm (25.4 inches) long and 74.5 cm (29.3 inches) wide. The smallest known skull (specimen AMNH 5214) is 55.5 cm (21.9 inches) long and 64.5 cm (25.4 inches) wide, and this specimen is estimated to have been 5.4 m (17.7 feet) long and around 1.4 m (4.6 feet) tall.[2] Other authors have proposed a body length of 7 m (23 feet),[3] 8–9 m (26.2–29.5 ft),[4] or more than 9 m (29.5 feet).[5] The weight of the animal has been estimated at 6 tonnes (13,000 lb).[3][6]

The structure of much of the skeleton of Ankylosaurus, including most of the pelvis, tail and feet, is still unknown.[2] It was quadrupedal, and its hind limbs were longer than the forelimbs.[6] The scapula (shoulder blade) and coracoid (a rectangular bone connected to the lower end of the scapula) of specimen AMNH 5895 were fused, and had entheses (connective tissue) for various muscle attachments. The scapula was 61.5 cm (24.2 inches) long. The humerus (upper arm bone) was short and very broad, and about 54 cm (21 inches) long in specimen AMNH 5214. The femur (thigh bone) was very robust, and 67 cm (26 inches) long in AMNH 5214. While the feet of Ankylosaurus are incompletely known, the hindfeet probably had three toes, as is the case in related animals.[2]

The cervical vertebrae of the neck had broad neural spines that increased in height towards the body. The front part of the neural spines had well developed entheses, which was common among adult dinosaurs, and indicates the presence of large ligaments which helped support the massive head. The dorsal vertebrae of the back had centra (or bodies) that were short relative to their width, and their neural spines were short and narrow. The dorsal vertebrae were tightly spaced, which limited the downwards movement of the back. The neural spines had ossified (turned to bone) tendons, which also overlapped some of the vertebrae. The ribs of the last four back vertebrae were fused to them, and the ribcage was very broad in this part of the body. The ribs had scars that show where muscles attached to them. The caudal vertebrae of the tail had centra that were slightly amphicoelous, meaning they were concave on both sides. The interlocked zygapophyses (articular processes) of the caudal vertebrae formed a V-shape when seen from above.

The three known Ankylosaurus skulls differ in various details, but this is thought to be the result of taphonomy (changes happening during fossilisation of the remains) and individual variation. The skull was low and triangular in shape, wider than it was long. It had a broad beak on the premaxillae. The orbits (eye sockets) were almost round to slightly oval and did not face directly sideways, because the skull tapered towards the front. Crests above the orbits merged into the upper squamosal horns (their shape has been described as "pyramidal"), which pointed backwards to the sides from the back of the skull. The crest and horn were probably separate elements originally, as seen in the related Pinacosaurus and Euoplocephalus. Below the upper horns, jugal horns were present, which pointed backwards and down. The horns may have originally been osteoderms (armor plates) that fused to the skull. However, the scale pattern on the skull surface was instead the result of remodelling of the skull. This obliterated the sutures between skull elements, which is common for adult ankylosaurs. The scale pattern of the skull was variable between specimens, though some details are shared; it had a diamond-shaped scale (internarial scale) at the font of the snout, two squamosal osteoderms above the orbit, and a ridge of scales at the back of the skull.[2][7]
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