Sunday, December 15, 2013

Europelta: Prehistoric Animal of the Week

This week goes to yet another new species, Europelta carbonensis!  First described only a few weeks ago, Europelta was an ankylosaur, a kind of plant-eating dinosaur with thick, bony armor on its body, like Ankylosaurus or Gargoyleosaurus.  It lived in what is now Spain during the Early Cretaceous, 112 million years ago.  The name, Europelta carbonensis, translates to "European Shield from the Coal" since it was discovered in a coal mine.  Europelta is considered a medium-sized dinosaur, measuring fifteen feet long from snout to tail. 

Life reconstruction of Europelta carbonensis by Christopher DiPiazza

Europelta is the most complete ankylosaur ever to be discovered in Europe and is known from two partial skeletons.  Between the two specimens, most of the bones are known.  Europelta is a member of the family called nodosauridae.  Nodosaurids were ankylosaurs that typically had sharp, flattened protruding pieces of armor running down their flanks and no club weapon on the tip of the tail.  Europelta, like other nodosaurids, also had a broad plate of bony armor covering the top of its pelvis called a sacral shieldEuropelta is the oldest known member of the Nodosaurid family.

Skull pieces of Europelta

Europelta possessed some unique physical characteristics.  Two of its pelvis bones, the pubis and ischium, were fused together to form one bone, called an ischiopubis.  Also, Europelta had proportionally longer front limbs than what is typically seen in other ankylosaurs. Its teeth were small and possessed tiny leaf-shaped serrations for cutting plant material, similar to those of other ankylosaurs. 

Some of the pieces of armor, called osteoderms, from Europelta.

That's all for this week!  Join us next week as we check out a dinosaur we will all be able to see on the silver screen soon!


Kirkland, J. I.; Alcalá, L.; Loewen, M. A.; Espílez, E.; Mampel, L.; Wiersma, J. P. (2013). "The Basal Nodosaurid Ankylosaur Europelta carbonensis n. gen., n. sp. From the Lower Cretaceous (Lower Albian) Escucha Formation of Northeastern Spain". In Butler, Richard J. PLoS ONE 8 (12): e80405. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0080405.

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