Dinosaurs and Harry Potter

Tonight sees the launch of the last book in the Harry Potter series.  We checked round the office and none of us have ever read a book, or gone to the cinema to see a movie.  In fact, no one admitted to actually sitting through an entire film when it has been shown on TV.  We must be immune to “Harry Potter fever”.

However, JK Rowling’s Hogwarts saga has had an impact on palaeontology.  In May of last year a new species of Pachycephalosaur was named in honour of JK Rowling’s creation.

The animal was named Dracorex hogwartsia (means dragon king of Hogwarts), Hogwarts is the fictional school of witchcraft and wizardry from the Harry Potter series.  So far only a skull and some neck vertebrae have been found.  Many types of Pachycephalosaurs are known only from their skulls, they are very robust and their thick bone aids preservation.  Many of the skulls are badly eroded prior to fossilisation.  Palaeontologists speculate that the weathering is due to the skulls being carried along way in water before finally coming to rest and becoming buried in sediments.  This may indicate that many of these animals lived in mountainous areas, with those few animals that died near rivers having their bodies broken up and washed downstream before finally coming to rest.

To view dinosaur models, including Dracorex: Dinosaur Toys for Boys and Girls – Dinosaur Models

The Dracorex specimen was found in the Hell Creek formation, it dates from 66 million years ago (Late Cretaceous).  The animal is estimated to be 3 – 4 metres long.  It lacked the thick domed skull, typical of the Pachycephalosaur group.  Instead the skull was flat and covered in spiky horns and many bumps.

A Reconstruction of the Dracorex hogwartsia

Photo courtesy of Indianapolis Children’s Museum

Dracorex was herbivorous, it has been reconstructed based on another Pachycephalosaur called Stygimoloch, scientists speculate that it may have lived in small groups browsing on shrubs and flowering plants.

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