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An infant duck-size dinosaur has been discovered and is covered in multiple layers of armor

A weird-looking, upright-walking armored dog trotted his way into the group.



One such dinosaur is the Jakapil kaniukura. Conicet/Félix de Azara Natural History Foundation/Wikimedia Commons

Strange dinosaur fossils have recently been discovered in Argentina. Large dinosaur bones were discovered in the country last year, leading experts to speculate that they belonged to the largest land animal ever. But now they’ve discovered something even stranger: a dinosaur about the size of a dog, but covered in so much armor that it looks a bit like an oversized armadillo.

According to a recent article in the journal Scientific Reports, paleontologists have officially named the newly discovered dinosaur Jakapil kaniukura. The jakapil kaniukura was a bipedal dinosaur that existed between 97 and 94 million years ago. Its tiny arms resembled chicken wings and it had a short beak that it used to deliver sharp bites.

One of the study’s co-authors, Sebastián Apestegua, said, “The neck armor of this dinosaur is unique, and it protected that delicate area from predator attacks.” The arms were unusually small for a dinosaur of the thyreophoran family, to which Jakapil kaniukura belonged, as shown by the fossilized remains of their limbs. Armoured dinosaurs, or thyreophorans, are a subgroup of dinosaurs known for having thick bony plates covering their entire bodies. Famous thyreophorans include the mohawk-like spiked back of the stegosaurus and the mace-like tail of the anklyosaurus, which looked like a giant version of a living horned toad.

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Those who find the term “Jakapil kaniukura” to be the stuff of nightmares need not worry. Assuming it didn’t go extinct, you wouldn’t have to worry about it anyway. Herbivore diet reconstructions suggest that Jakapil kaniukura, like the stegosaurus and the ankylosaurus, was a member of the thyreophora. However, the Jakapil kaniukura was not very large, even if it had been a carnivore; it was only about the length of a retriever-sized dog (less than 5 feet).

There are a number of scientific reasons why the discovery of Jakapil kaniukura is important. According to the paper’s authors, the tiny dinosaur possesses a number of “unusual anatomical features,” or characteristics, that are not typically associated with the thyreophorans of that time. Given that thyreophorans had previously only been discovered in the northern hemisphere, it is also the first definitive thyreophoran species from the Argentine Patagonia. For all we know, this is the only thyreophoran ever discovered south of the equator.

While most thyreophorans used all four limbs for locomotion, the Jakapil kaniukura “seems to show a bipedal stance,” according to the study’s authors. The fact that this dinosaur was uncovered in the southern hemisphere suggests that thyreophorans were much more widely distributed than was previously thought is also notable. In South America, they persisted until the Late Cretaceous, spanning the years between 100.5 and 66 million years ago, just prior to the mass extinction that wiped out the dinosaurs.

The scientific name of the dinosaur is also interesting because it draws on local languages. The Puelchean or northern Tehuelchean Indigenous language of Argentina is the source of the word “Jakapil,” which means “shield bearer.” Similarly, the Indigenous Mapudungun words for “crest” and “stone” form the basis of the name “Kanikura.”

In addition to the excitement of receiving such a complete fossil, paleontologists are relieved to have found some of the spines that ran along the dinosaur’s back, as well as its lower jaw, limb bones, and vertebrae in the neck, back, and tail.


The researchers also shared a video of Gabriel Dáz Yantén, a palaeontology student at Ro Negro National University in Chile, presenting a computer-generated reconstruction of Jakapil kaniukura.