BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — A novice fossil collector's lucky find in a remote Montana badlands more than a decade ago represents a new kind of spectacularly-horned dinosaur, researchers announced Wednesday.
The bones unearthed near Winifred, Montana represent a previously-unknown species of dinosaur that lived 76 million years ago.
It's scientific name is Spiclypeus shipporum (spi-CLIP-ee-us ship-OR-um) but it's been nicknamed "Judith," after the Judith River rock formation where it was found in 2005 by retired nuclear physicist Bill Shipp.
Canadian Museum of Nature paleontologist Jordan Mallon says Judith is closely-related to the well-known Triceratops. Both had horned faces and elaborate head frills.
Like Triceratops, Judith was a plant-eater, approximately 15-feet long and weighing up to four tons, Mallon said.
Shipp told The Associated Press he stumbled across what turned out to be Judith's leg bone in 2005, after hiring an amateur paleontologist to give him a lesson on fossil hunting at the ranch he'd recently acquired near the Upper Missouri River Breaks National Monument.
"I found it accidentally on purpose," he said. "I was actually looking for dinosaur bones, but with no expectation of actually finding any."
It was at least 10 years old when it died and the bones show signs of infection that would have left Judith hobbled. That made it potentially vulnerable prey for Tyrannosaurus rex-like predators that lived around the same period, Mallon said.
"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," Mallon said. "If you're hobbling along on three limbs, you're probably not going to be able to keep up with the herd."
Details on the find were published in the online scientific journal PLOS ONE.
Judith is one of only about a dozen dinosaur species that have been discovered in the Judith formation despite more than a century of exploration in the area, said John Scannella, manager of paleontology collections at the Museum of the Rockies in Bozeman, Montana.
"This new animal provides another piece in the puzzle of our view of what the ecosystem of central Montana 76 million years ago was like," Scannella said.
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