New year, new PBS Eons commission roundup day!
Zuul crurivastator, an ankylosaur from the Late Cretaceous of Montana, USA (~75 mya).
One of the most complete ankylosaurids ever found in North America, it’s known from a full skeleton about 6m long (20′). Much of its bony osteoderm armor is preserved in life position, along with skin impressions and the remains of keratinous scales and spike sheaths – although so far only the skull and tail have actually been fully prepared and described.
(The fuzz on this reconstruction is highly speculative, but since it’ll likely end up inaccurate anyway once of the rest of the body is fully described… why not have some fun with it?)
Its genus name was inspired by its skull’s resemblance to Zuul the Gatekeeper from the 1984 movie Ghostbusters, while its species name translates to “destroyer of shins” in reference to its especially large tail club.
Those extinct horses weren’t the only ancient creatures with unexplained noses. Some dinosaurs had equally weird things going on with their snouts – and while hadrosaurs’ big honkin’ snoots are fairly well-known, there were other ornithischians with their own bizarre nasal anatomy.
Many ceratopsids had an enormous nasal opening forming a giant bony “window” through their snout, with the chasmosaurines like the famous Triceratops having additional bony projections and hollowed regions within these holes. They probably supported some huge elaborate cartilage structures in life, but what they were for is still a mystery. They may have helped with heat dissipation or moisture conservation, aided sound production, provided a highly sensitive sense of smell, housed a vomeronasal organ, held part of an air-filled pneumatic system… or, getting more speculative, possibly even some sort of inflatable nasal display structure.
Some ankylosaurids, meanwhile, went with multiple holes instead. Minotaurasaurus here had two additional openings around its nostrils, and Pinacosaurus could have up to five – the purpose of which is unknown. Many ankylosaurs also had forward-facing nostrils (a rare trait in archosaurs) and incredibly complex looping airways through their skulls. These may have allowed for mammal-like “air conditioning”, regulating the heat and moisture content of each breath, or perhaps enhanced their sense of smell or served some sort of resonance chamber function. Or, again, maybe even nose balloons.
Also floofy ankylosaur because I can.