New Type of Ankylosaur Named After Indian Scientist
Having a species named after you is a real honour for any scientist. Such an accolade is usually bestowed upon you by your peers and fellow researchers. Having a dinosaur species named after you is a particular honour, this is just what has happened to Indian scientist V. S. Ramachandran who permitted a fossil skull in his possession be studied.
A previously unknown species of Ankylosaur (an armoured dinosaur), discovered in early Cretaceous strata in the Gobi desert has been studied and named in Ramachandran's honour by two American palaeontologists Clifford and Clark Miles. The skull is perhaps the most important element of the skeleton to examine, it often permits scientists to identify a new species based on the skull morphology alone.
The Ankylosaur skull had been purchased by V. S. Ramachandran from a Japanese fossil collector and put on display at the Victor Valley Museum in California. The American team (based at the Western Palaeontological Laboratories in Utah), were granted permission to study the skull and from the skulls triangular appearance and distinctive nasal (a bone at the front of the skull), they determined that this specimen represented a new genus of Ankylosaur.
Minotaurasaurus - "Man-Bull Reptile"
This new dinosaur has been named Minotaurasaurus ramachandrani. The name means in Latin "Ramachandrans Man-Bull Reptile" a reference to the skull with its extended nasal and flared naris that reminded the researchers of the skull of a bull. Borrowing from Greek legend it seemed apt to name this particular armoured dinosaur after the Minotaur of Greek mythology.
The American team's research paper has been published in the Indian research periodical "Current Science", a popular academic journal on the Indian sub-continent.
Ankylosaurs - Armoured Members of the Dinosauria
The Ankylosaurs were armoured plated, herbivorous quadrupeds, often referred to as "living tanks". The fossils of these animals are most closely associated with the Cretaceous and this group can be split into two distinctive sub-orders, the true Ankylosaurs characterised by their broad bodies and club-like tails and the Nodosaurids, which are regarded by some scientists as being more primitive, and lacking (in most cases), a tail-club.
Models of a number of Ankylosaurs have been produced, animals such as Edmontonia (Nodosaur) and Saichania (Ankylosaur) have been created. By far the best known dinosaur of this type, commonly referred to as shield-bearers, is the Ankylosaurus. Ankylosaurus was one of the largest and one of the last to evolve, living right at the end of the Cretaceous (Maastrichtian faunal stage). It is often depicted defending itself against a Tyrannosaurus rex, with which this dinosaur shared its North American habitat.
New Species of Dinosaur Described
In this new species, the skull is approximately 30 cms long and using comparisons from more complete fossil skeletons the scientists have estimated that this particular example of Minotaurasaurus was probably not fully grown. It is estimated that this particular animal was over 4 metres in length. There may be larger specimens out in the Gobi desert awaiting discovery.
The teeth of Minotaurasaurus are typically robust for an Ankylosaur. They are leaf-shaped with a highly developed coronate surface to maximise chewing and the grinding of plant matter. Each tooth has a series of vertical striations or ridges that divide the grinding surface into 8 separate cusps.
Once this research has been validated by subject to peer review V. S. Ramachandran can join an elite band of Indian citizens who have had a prehistoric animal named after them. He is unlikely to be the last Indian scientist recognised in this way, India is slowly but surely giving up its ancient secrets and many new species of dinosaur will come to light in the future.