The Royal Ontario Museum presented a new species of armored dinosaur called Zuul crurivastator that was discovered from the Judith River Formation in Montana. Amazingly, the nearly complete skeleton was very well preserved, as the horned coverings on the spikes at the end of its tail, as well as skin and soft tissues were all still present. It is now on display at the museum as a fascinating addition to their already impressive collection of dinosaurs that have been discovered in the western part of North America.
Zuul wasn’t the only skeleton found at the 75 million-year-old river channel in Montana. Other well-preserved fossils found there include turtles, clams, snails, plants, a crocodile, duck-billed dinosaurs, horned dinosaurs, and ostrich dinosaurs, just to name a few.
Zuul was named after the terror-dog monster from the 1984 movie Ghostbusters because they both have a short, rounded snout and horns that are located behind their eyes as well as on their cheeks. The species name of crurivastator translates to “Destroyer of Shins” because of its dangerous tail which has a sledgehammer-like feature at the end of it. The strong tail clubs were more than likely used as a defense mechanism against predators or even as a weapon used against other ankylosaurs that were competing for territory or for mates.
Zuul is a part of the armored dinosaur family because of its heavily armored skull as well as the armour that was formed on its spiked tail. In fact, it’s the only tail-clubbed ankylosaur skeleton that has been found that includes a complete tail club as well as a complete skull. Ankylosaurs are very rare, as they make up just 5% of the dinosaur groups.
They lived around 75 million years ago from the Campanian Stage of the Late Cretaceous Period and they fed on plants – most likely shrubs and ferns. Their wide, flat bodies with long tails were covered in bony armour and they measured around 20 feet long, weighing more than 2.5 tons. They had four horns on their skull – one underneath and one behind each eye – along with huge nostrils and ornamentation on their snout. By analyzing the ornamentation and horns, researchers were able to determine that Zuul was in fact a new and different species of ankylosaurs.
While the Zuul species is similar to another group of ankylosaurs called the ankylosaurids, their tails did have some slight differences. While the ankylosaurids’ back half of their tail was stiff and the tip of the tail had large bony plates which formed a sledgehammer-like weapon, Zuul had a long tail with sharp, pointy spikes along its sides with a big tail club.
And with its extremely dangerous weapon-tail, Zuul was not to be messed with and even a Tyrannosaurus would have been afraid of the club-like tail that could very easily have destroyed the shins of its rivals.