Like most people, we figured that we could learn all that there is to know about dinosaurs by watching Jurassic Park. They're big, they have scales, some of them can open doors. What more is there to know? But it turns out that these long-dead lizards still have many more ways to surprise us. Some more scientifically significant than others.
In Utah, a fascinating new type of ankylosaurid has been discovered that changes much of what we thought we knew about North American dinosaurs. What's so special about it is that, unlike all other ankylosauri native to the region, it sported spikes and cones on its armored head and snout, earning it the name akainacephalus, or "thorny head." In full, the creature is called Akainacephalus johnsoni after museum volunteer Randy Johnson.
Paleontologists managed to pull a remarkably complete fossil out of the Kaiparowits Formation in Utah, including an undamaged skull, already proving the effectiveness of its spike defences. Being able to study such a perfect skull reaffirmed for the researchers that this ankylosaur variant has little in common with its North American cousins. This led them to theorize that there were actually two separate groups of ankylosaurs living in North America, with these perhaps having schlepped it all the way from Asia via an ancient land bridge.