Basal Ankylosaurine Dinosaur Jinyunpelta is Described

Scientists, including researchers from the Chinese Academy of Sciences have published details of a new genus of club-tailed, armoured dinosaur that roamed China around 100 million years ago.  The dinosaur has been named Jinyunpelta sinensis, it represents the first definitive ankylosaurid dinosaur from southern China.

An Illustration of the Basal Ankylosaurine Jinyunpelta sinensis

Jinyunpelta sinensis illustrated.

An illustration of Jinyunpelta sinensis.

Picture Credit: The Chinese Academy of Sciences

Two Fossil Specimens

This new dinosaur, very distantly related to Late Cretaceous Ankylosaurs like Euoplocephalus and Ankylosaurus (from which the group is named), has been described based on two fossil specimens.  The fossils come from Jinyun County, Zhejiang Province, China and have been excavated from rocks which form part of the Liangtoutang Formation, which covers the important boundary between Lower and Upper Cretaceous sediments (Albian faunal stage to the Cenomanian faunal stage of the Cretaceous).

The fossil material consists of an almost complete skull, parts of the jaw and postcranial remains including a beautifully-preserved tail club.

The Skull and Jaw of Jinyunpelta sinensis

The skull and mandible of Jinyunpelta sinensis.

Skull and jaw of Jinyunpelta (a) dorsal view, (b) ventral view and (c) anterior view, with accompanying line drawings.

Picture Credit: The Chinese Academy of Sciences/Scientific Reports

The generic name derives from “Jinyun” (Mandarin) honouring Jinyun County where the fossils were found and “pelta” (Latin), a small shield, in reference to the osteoderms found on all ankylosaurians.  The root of the specific name “sin” (Greek) refers to China, the country of origin.

Photographs and Line Drawings of the Spectacular Tail Club

The Tail Club of Jinyunpelta sinensis.

The tail club Jinyunpelta sinensis paratype ZMNH M8963 in dorsal (a) and ventral (b) views.

Picture Credit: The Chinese Academy of Sciences/Scientific Reports

The Oldest Swinger in Town

J. sinensis is described as a basal ankylosaurine dinosaur and it represents the oldest and the most basal ankylosaurian known to have a well-developed tail club knob.  It is quite a sizeable bony club too, getting on for nearly half a metre across at its widest part.  The researchers conclude that large and highly modified tail clubs evolved at the base of the ankylosaurine at least about 100 million years ago.

Jinyunpelta possesses unique cranial features which differentiates this Chinese dinosaur from other armoured dinosaurs known from the northern hemisphere, these autapomorphies support the establishment of a new genus.  Several other types of Ornithischian dinosaur have been reported from this part of China, including another armoured dinosaur – a  Nodosaur and basal Ornithopod that was named and described in 2012 (Yueosaurus tiantaiensis)

The discovery of Jinyunpelta expands the known diversity and palaeogeographical distribution of ankylosaurians in Asia.

The scientific paper: “The Most Basal Ankylosaurine Dinosaur from the Albian–Cenomanian of China, with Implications for the Evolution of the Tail Club” by Wenjie Zheng, Xingsheng Jin, Yoichi Azuma, Qiongying Wang, Kazunori Miyata & Xing Xu published in the open access journal “Scientific Reports”.

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