Newly Discovered Spiked Dinosaurs From South America Look Like Creatures From 'No Man's Sky'
Paleontologists in Argentina have uncovered a dinosaur unlike anything ever seen before. Alive some 140 million years ago, these majestic herbivores featured long, forward-pointing spikes running along their necks and backs. These spikes may have served a defensive role, but their exact purpose now presents a fascinating new mystery.
New research published this week in Scientific Reports describes a new species of dinosaur its discoverers are calling Bajadasaurus pronuspinax(pronounced “BA-HAD-AH-SAURUS” “PRONE-OO-SPIN-ACKS”). The first half of its binomial references to the geological formation where its fossils were found, the Bajada Colorada Formation in Northern Patagonia, Argentina. The latter part of its name means “bent over forward spine,” owing to its most distinctive feature. The fossilized remnants of this extraordinary creature, including a nearly complete skull with some teeth, were uncovered in 2013 by paleontologists from CONICET, Universidad Maimónides, and several other institutions.
Bajadasaurus was a sauropod, a wildly successful group of long-necked, four-legged dinosaurs. A Lower Cretaceous dinosaur, it lived 140 million years ago in what is now Argentina, and it belonged to a subgroup of sauropods called dicraeosaurids—medium-sized sauropods with distinctive vertebrae and long spines along their necks and backs.
Analysis of the Bajadasaurus skull and teeth suggests they grazed on low-lying plants. Their eye sockets were located near the roof of the skull, allowing them to keep watch for predators while they munched on foliage. In the beautiful art produced by Jorge A. González, a small pterosaur can be seen perching on a Bajadasaurus spike—a nice touch, given how prolific these winged reptiles were in South America at the time. Reconstructions of the spikey beast were recently unveiled at the Cultural Science Center in Buenos Aires (pictured above).
“We’re barely into February, but Bajadasaurus might end up being the most awesome dinosaur of 2019.”
Prior to this latest discovery, paleontologists had uncovered another South American dicraeosauridae with spikes, Amargasaurus cazaui. This sleek-looking sauropod lived around 15 million years after Bajadasaurus, but its spikes were much shorter and they leaned backward instead of forward. Bajadasaurus is notable both for the size of its spikes and their forward-leaning orientation. The longest of the rod-like neural spines measured nearly 5 feet in length, close to 150 centimeters.