Dr. Bill Shipp wasn’t expecting to discover a new dinosaur species the first time he went fossil hunting. But it turns out he did just that.
The fossils that Shipp stumbled across near his home in Montana have now been identified as a new species of horned dinosaur called spiclypeus shipporum — nicknamed "Judith" after the Judith River near where the fossils were found. The international research team that studied the dinosaur was led by Canadian Museum of Nature scientist Dr. Jordan Mallon, and the results of their work were published May 18th in the journal PLOS ONE.
But identifying Judith didn’t happen overnight; it's been more than a decade since Shipp found the fossils.
“The project had a lot of delays and it was just such a long time of not knowing,” he said. “[Identifying a dinosaur] is a slow process and one that you can’t really shortcut, but as soon as I made contact with Jordan and the museum there was nothing but steady progress.”
The sideways orientation of Judith’s horns and the unique arrangement of its head frill spikes are what set it apart from other horned dinosaurs like Triceratops. Mallon said Judith is particularly interesting because it grew to adulthood despite having an infection that rendered one of its legs useless.
“I think the fact that this animal suffered for so long with such a debilitating infection and yet still managed to reach adulthood attests to Judith’s resilience, making its story both one of sorrow and determination,” he said.
The Canadian Museum of Nature will open a public exhibit about spiclypeus shipporum on May 24th, adding to its horned dinosaur collection, one of the most extensive collections in the country.