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Dinosaur studied in Richland identified as new species

May 31, 2016

By Annette Cary

This artist rendering shows a new horned dinosaur Spiclypeus shipporum, nicknamed Judith, holding an injured limb close to the body. Researchers at the Canadian Museum of Nature have validated the bones found near Winifred, Mont., as a new species that lived roughly 76 million years ago. Mike Skrepnick - Canadian Museum of Nature

Read more here: http://www.tri-cityherald.com/news/local/article80566797.html#storylink=cpy

If you visited the display of a spectacularly horned dinosaur skull in Richland in 2011 and 2012, scientists can now tell you what you saw — a previously undiscovered species of dinosaur.

The fossilized bones of the dinosaur, nicknamed “Judith,” now go by the scientific name Spiclypeus shipporum.

“This is a spectacular new addition to the family of horned dinosaurs that roamed western North America between 85 and 65 million years ago,” said Jordan Mallon, palaeontologist at the Canadian Museum of Nature.

The fossil of the 76-million-year-old animal was discovered by former Richland scientist Bill Shipp on his Montana vacation ranch, and he turned to Richland radiologist Edward Iuliano to learn more about the find.

It looked a bit like a triceratops, perhaps a juvenile.

But Iuliano used Kadlec Regional Medical Center equipment to scan an arm bone, providing evidence that Judith was no kid.

His work helped a team of scientists led by a palaeontologist at the Canadian Museum of Nature to recently declare that Judith was a specimen of a new species.

Judith’s most impressive feature was a head frill with triangular spikes along its margin, which is reflected in the scientific name.

Spiclypeus is a combination of two Latin words meaning “spiked shield.”

Shipporum is in honor of Shipp and his family. Shipp, a retired nuclear physicist, worked at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and later became the Idaho National Laboratory director. He arranged displays of a life-size replica of the skull at Kadlec and Washington State University Tri-Cities after Iuliano’s imaging work.

It had been obvious since the fossils were discovered that Judith is a species of the ceratosian, a family of four-legged, plant-eating dinosaurs with horned faces, beaks and bony frills.

Unlike the better-known triceratops, Judith’s horns stick out sideways from her skull. And some of the triangular spikes at the edge of its frill curl inward and some curl outward.

Mallon said that the frill seems to be a transitional species between more primitive forms of dinosaurs — in which all the spikes at the back of the frill radiate outward — and those such as Kosmoceratops in which all curl forward.

Judith, whose fossilized bones were found in the namesake Judith River geological formation in 2005, likely was about 15 feet long and weighed up to four tons, Mallon said. It would have been a little bigger than a rhinoceros.

Shipp initially found a dinosaur thigh bone jutting out of a hillside.

He knew when he bought land near Winifred, Mont., that it was country known to conceal dinosaur bones.

“I found it accidentally on purpose,” Shipp said. “I was actually looking for dinosaur bones, but with no expectation of actually finding any.”

It took a crew Shipp brought in about two years to unearth most of the dinosaur’s skull with its signature frill, part of a pelvis, several ribs and vertebrae, a thigh bone and an upper arm bone.

He eventually brought the skeleton to Richland, where he was living at the time, and learned Iuliano was the natural choice to ask for help.

Iuliano had already used the Richland hospital’s imaging equipment with Kadlec’s blessing, working with a University of Kentucky professor to attempt to discover what charred fragments of ancient scrolls said. They were buried when Mount Vesuvius erupted in Italy in A.D. 79. Tests at Kadlec failed to reveal what was written.

Iuliano was game in 2011 to see what he could discover about Judith, using a CT scanner to get an X-ray of its humerus.

The results were surprising. It’s unusual to find bone pathology in a dinosaur, Iuliano said, but he discovered two types of pathology in the same bone.

Judith was old enough to have arthritis at its shoulder joint, the same sort of degenerative disease humans get as they age, Iuliano said. Paleontologists now believe Judith lived to adulthood and was at least 10 years old based on annual growth rings in its bones.

But the dinosaur also had a severe bone infection at the elbow joint, with openings to drain pus that likely leaked into the skin, which would have been caused by an injury.

It had lived with the problem, likely hobbling around on three limbs, long enough for bone changes to occur that take months or years to develop, Iuliano said.

“We know this dinosaur must have been tough,” he said.

The injury likely made Judith unable to keep up with the herd and potentially vulnerable to predators such as Tyrannosaurus rex that lived around the same time period, Mallon said.

It’s exciting to think that a predator bite caused Judith’s injury, but scientists don’t know if that was the cause or something else, such as a fall, Iuliano said.

Details on the identification of Judith as part of a new species are published in the online scientific journal PLOS ONE.

Judith’s fossil has been sold to the Canadian Museum of Nature in Ottawa, Ontario, which has opened an exhibit that includes a reconstruction of the dinosaur’s skull, the diseased humerus and other bones.

Iuliano keeps a replica of the bone he examined in his office.



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