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Earliest Armored Dinosaur From Asia Discovered, And It's A Hella Punk

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Rachael Funnell

Digital Content Producer

clockMar 15 2022, 16:52 UTC
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oldest armored dinosaur

The new species may be a common ancestor connecting Stegosaurus and Ankylosaurus. Image credit: (C) Yu Chen

A new species of armored dinosaur has been discovered in China and it’s the oldest found in Asia to date. With distinctive morphology that makes for some pretty punk paleoart, the new species highlights that these dinosaurs may have been more diverse in their appearance during the Early Jurassic than previously expected.

Joining the spiky bois Stegosaurus and Ankylosaurus as a member of the thyreophorans, the new species has been named Yuxisaurus kopchicki and is described in a paper published in eLife by researchers from China, the US, and the Natural History Museum, London. Having wandered the Yunnan Province in China roughly 192 to 174 million years ago, it’s the earliest armored dinosaur found in Asia yet.

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Built like a tank, Y. kopchicki had a stocky build and spiked armor that would’ve made it a challenging opponent for predators in the Early Jurassic.

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Its Latin name pays homage to its site of discovery with “Yuxisaurus” referencing the Yuxi Prefecture in China. The latter part “kopchicki” is a hat tip to molecular biologist Dr John J Kopchick in recognition of his contributions to biology and the Indiana University of Pennsylvania, the academic home of some of the paper’s authors.

According to Dr Shundong Bi, a professor at Indiana University of Pennsylvania and senior author on the paper, it was most likely a quadrupedal dinosaur getting around on four legs, but it might also have been able to walk on just two.

Insights into the dinosaur’s anatomy and behavior were gleaned from an incomplete skeleton made up of remains of the skull, jaw, shoulders, limbs and armored spines and plates. While it’s not the whole picture, they reveal unique structures around the head and represent one of the more complete and better preserved specimens from this era and region.

oldest armored dinosaur
The surviving remains of Yuxisaurus kopchicki, the earliest known armored dinosaur from Asia. Image credit: (C) Xi Yao

“Although we’ve had tantalizing fragments of early armoured dinosaurs from Asia, this is the first time we’ve had enough material to recognize a new species from the region and investigate its evolutionary history,” said Professor Paul Barrett, Merit Researcher at the Natural History Museum, London and first author in a statement sent to IFLScience.

“I hope it’s the first of many new dinosaurs from the localities being discovered by my colleagues in Yunnan.”

The discovery follows in the footsteps of Bashanosaurus primitivus, a new stegosaur species presented to the world earlier this month. Also hailing from Asia, the smallish dinosaur was strutting around roughly 160 million years ago and may represent the oldest stegosaur known to science.


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