‘Tank dinosaur’ specimens found in China, coinciding with Year of the Dragon
Published: Feb 29, 2024 10:39 PM
Photo: Courtesy of Xing Lida

Photo: Courtesy of Xing Lida

With their results recently published in academic journal Vertebrate Anatomy Morphology Palaeontology, a research team led by Chinese dinosaur expert Xing Lida has revealed its latest discovery in Huichang county, East China's Jiangxi Province. Two specimens of Ankylosaurus, a type of armored dinosaur, were the latest discovery. 

Ankylosaurus is dubbed as a "tank dinosaur" as its body was covered with bony plates while it had a heavy club on the end of its tail. The two Ankylosaurus specimens were dated to the Late Cretaceous period and they have been given the special name Datai yingliangis.

The name Datai yingliangis was inspired by two Chinese words, "Tongda" and "Antai," which embody wishful pursuits of "good prospects and a harmonious life." The name was given to resonate with the Year of the Dragon. 

Photo: Courtesy of Xing Lida

Photo: Courtesy of Xing Lida

While the research results, co-contributed by international researchers like Jordan C. Mallon and Tetsuto Miyashita, was published in mid-February, Datai yingliangis was first unearthed in 2016 during road excavation in Huichang county. 

Xing told the Global Times that during the excavation, local villagers accidentally spotted rare white bony substances mixed with the purple-red macadam scattered around the road. 

The discovery would not have been made without the help of villagers and local dinosaur fans. Niu Kecheng, a local dinosaur fan, was the first one to speculate that the white substance was a fossil. He later contacted the Yingliang Stone Natural History Museum in East China's Fujian Province.

Niu told the Global Times that those discovered pieces were extremely fragmented with the smallest only the size of a fingernail. There were over a thousand pieces, so experts at the museum had the big task of putting them together like "a puzzle with irregular jigsaw pieces." 

Photo: Courtesy of Xing Lida

Photo: Courtesy of Xing Lida

Two months of efforts revealed the image of an adult Datai yingliangis. Xing said that in addition to the characteristic skull protrusions of Ankylosaurus, the Jiangxi Datai yingliangis has a special face shape, and extended jugal bones as well as quadratojugal bones on each side of its cheeks. The discovery shows the diversity of Ankylosaurus species.  

Xing also emphasized that their sizes likely ranged from 3.5 to 4 meters in length.

Researchers have also shed light on another detail that these two specimens were found one overlaid on the nother. The creatures were most likely to be  buried quickly by sand. 

Although Datai yingliangis was discovered in Jiangxi Province, researchers found that the way they were buried together is similar to that of fossils of Pinacosaurus commonly found in the northern part of China, such as the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region.