It’s been well over a year in the making, during which time I’ve had to remain patient for one of the most exciting moments of my young career! This week, with the publication of the official scientific paper, I get to introduce to you the latest addition to the fossil collection of the Canadian Museum of Nature.

Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome the 76 million year-old quadruped from Winifred: Spiclypeus shipporum!

An illustration of the dinosaur in its habitat.
Judith (Spiclypeus shipporum) limps across a Late Cretaceous floodplain in what is now Montana, U.S.A. Illustration: Mike Skrepnick

Spiclypeus shipporum (spic-LIP-ee-us ship-OR-um) is a new species of horned dinosaur whose name is Latin for “Shipp’s spiked shield”. The species name honours Bill Shipp, Ph.D., and his family, on whose land near Winifred, Montana, the fossil was found in 2005. What sets Spilcypeus apart from the other horned dinosaurs are the laterally pointing brow horns and the uniquely ornamented head frill, in which some of the adorning spikes curl forward and others project outward.

View Judith from different angles by manipulating a 3D rendering of the skull reconstruction.

The holotype specimen (nicknamed “Judith” after the Judith River rock formation where it was found) is also notable for having a highly diseased left humerus or upper arm bone. The humerus shows extensive signs of arthritis and bone infection. A massive hole developed near the elbow to drain the infection. Judith almost certainly lived a life of pain and would have been reduced to hobbling about on three legs because the left forelimb was rendered useless.

The fossil bone.
The disease-riddled left humerus of Judith. The large opening near the elbow (red arrow, inset) served to drain a nasty bone infection. Image: Scott Rufolo © Canadian Museum of Nature

Spiclypeus is a fantastic addition to the Canadian Museum of Nature, which already houses one of the best collections of horned dinosaurs in the world. However, our collections are strongly biased toward dinosaurs from Alberta, so Spiclypeus fills a clear gap in our geographic coverage.

Four dinosaur skulls on shelves.
Spiclypeus shipporum is a natural fit for our already vast collection of horned dinosaurs. Left: Centrosaurus apertus (collection #CMNFV 348). Top: Styracosaurus albertensis (CMNFV 344). Bottom: Monoclonius lowei (CMNFV 8790). Right: Centrosaurus apertus (CMNFV 8795). Image: Martin Lipman © Canadian Museum of Nature

Moreover, having this important specimen in our possession helps us to better understand related species in our collection. For example, Spiclypeus appears to be transitional between more primitive horned dinosaurs in which all the spikes at the back of the frill radiate outward, and those such as our own Vagaceratops irvinensis, in which they all curl forward. Our new species therefore clarifies the evolution of display features in horned dinosaurs.

I’m also excited to report that Spiclypeus will be on display in the Talisman Energy Fossil Gallery of the Canadian Museum of Nature for the summer starting on May 24, 2016.

Learn more about the story behind the species’s discovery and the science stemming from it.