HEMET, CA – The Western Science Center is now home to a new species of armored dinosaur: Invictarx zephyri, a nodosaur from the Menefee Formation in New Mexico. The new paper by authors Dr. Andrew T. McDonald of the Western Science Center and Doug Wolfe of the Zuni Dinosaur Institute for Geosciences has been published in the open access science journal PeerJ.
Invictarx zephyri lived 80 million years ago and is the first new species of dinosaur named from the Menefee Formation, according to Dr. Andrew T. McDonald, curator of the Western Science Center and lead author on the paper. “It’s a slice of time we don’t know much about. Dinosaurs of any kind are rare in North American rocks of this age.”
“The fossils we have are fragmentary, but they provide a hint of more discoveries to come. This is currently the only named species of armored dinosaur from this time in North America. We will inevitably discover more about armored dinosaurs from this time period in the future; Invictarx is just the start,” says Dr. McDonald.
Nodosaurs are part of the larger group of ankylosaurian dinosaurs; they lacked the iconic tail club of their relatives, but brandished massive shoulder spikes. The name Invictarx zephyri can be translated as “unconquerable fortress of the western wind”.
“Invictarx was collected from strata containing coal from ancient swamps, along with standing petrified tree stumps, giant crocodiles, turtles everywhere, and dinosaurs we’ve yet to describe. Eighty million years ago, the now treeless badlands of New Mexico would have resembled modern coastal swamps in Louisiana or southeast Asia,” notes Mr. Wolfe, CEO and Chairman of the Zuni Dinosaur Institute for Geosciences.
The three partial skeletons of Invictarx, collected under permits on U.S. Bureau of Land Management land, were collected in 2011 and 2015 by Dr. McDonald and Mr. Wolfe, as well as staff and volunteers from the Southwest Paleontological Society and the Zuni Dinosaur Institute for Geosciences. The specimens, which include fossils from the Natural History Museum of Utah and the Western Science Center, were prepared for research and display by staff and volunteers from both institutions.
“As we continue to develop the Western Science Center’s collections and field programs, the description of Invictarx will be the first of many scientific contributions to come from our museum,” says WSC Executive Director Dr. Alton Dooley.
Invictarx fossils include around 20 osteoderms, which are bony armor plates set in the skin, as well as vertebrae and parts of the forelimbs. The Western Science Center has made 3D prints of these specimens, which will be used in future WSC programs to give the public an opportunity to interact with the museum’s newest dinosaur. The original fossils will be put on display at the Western Science Center in the future.