76-Million-Year-Old Fossil Reveals How Armored Dinosaurs Used Their Sledgehammer Tails

Some dinosaurs are mechanically cool. Scary T. rex. Horned triceratops. And, particularly, the spiky ankylosaurs — squat, armored beasts with depraved club-like tails. Paleontologists have lengthy thought these tails had been for keeping off predators like T. rex, however new analysis suggests they could have been for in-fighting as properly.

A crew of researchers from the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM), Royal BC Museum and North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences revealed a research in Biology Letters this week on a exceptional and uncommon fossil of Zuul crurivastator. The ankylosaur had broken and healed spikes close to its hips. The scientists suspect the accidents got here from one other ankylosaur delivering a mighty whack from its personal “sledgehammer-like tail.”

This exhibits an injured and healed spike on Zuul’s left aspect.

Royal Ontario Museum

Zuul crurivastator might have gotten testy with its personal sort, very similar to modern-day deer, kangaroos and zebras. “This suggests ankylosaurs had complex behavior, possibly battling for social and territorial dominance or even engaging in a ‘rutting’ season for mates,” ROM mentioned in an announcement on Tuesday.


The plant-eating ankylosaurs lived 76 million years in the past. It took years of excavation work in Montana to extract the Zuul crurivastator fossil on the coronary heart of the research. The fossilized pores and skin and armor exhibits accidents the place spikes had been damaged after which healed right into a blunted form, a sample extra in step with battling different ankylosaurs than struggling an assault from a predator like a tyrannosaur.

As an apart, the Zuul crurivastator title is price delving into. Zuul is for the horned gatekeeper from Ghostbusters, whereas the remainder of the moniker interprets to “destroyer of shins,” a reference to how the dinosaurs doubtless used their tails to take out the legs of tyrannosaurs. Perhaps it wants a brand new nickname: Zuul, destroyer of flanks.

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