Meet Spiclypeus shipporum, a new species of dinosaur discovered by amateur fossil hunter and retired nuclear physicist Bill Shipp. Bones belonging to the dino were first discovered by Shipp in the remote Montana badlands back in 2005, but this week, the new species and genus were described in a study in the online scientific journal PLOS ONE.
a 15-foot relation of Triceratops
The specimen discovered by Shipp is named Judith after a nearby rock formation, and was a plant-eater 15 feet in length and around 4 tons in weight. Like its close relation, Triceratops, Judith has an elaborately frilled neck made from curved bones, but the spiked horns above its eyes stuck out sideways, instead of straight forward. The bones were formally classified after being acquired by the Canadian Museum of Nature last year.
A reconstruction of Judith's skull. (Image credit: Martin Lipman, Canadian Museum of Nature, via AP)
Shipp told the Associated Press that he found Judith "accidentally on purpose" after taking some paleontology lessons at his ranch near the Missouri River. "I was actually looking for dinosaur bones," said Shipp, "But with no expectation of actually finding any."
Shipp first saw a piece of Judith's bone sticking out the ground, and his initial dig revealed five more pieces. Over the next two years, half of Judith's skull and bits of its legs, hips, and backbone were excavated. Judith is thought to have lived some 76 million years ago, and suffered from a severe leg infection that would have left it vulnerable to predators in the area.
"It's an exciting story, because it's a new species, and yet we have this sort of pathetic individual that suffered throughout its lifetime," paleontologist Jordan Mallon of the Canadian Museum of Nature told AP. "If you're hobbling along on three limbs, you're probably not going to be able to keep up with the herd." You can find out more about Judith's discovery in the video series from the museum below: