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New Mexico's Newest Dinosaur!

Publish Date: 
Wednesday, September 24, 2014 - 1:30pm


Contact: Randall Gann, Public Information Officer

505.252.6869  Email:



Come Meet New Mexico’s Newest Dinosaur at the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science!

Please join us at the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science next Wednesday, September 24, at 12pm to meet New Mexico’s newest dinosaur. Ziapelta sanjuanensis is a new genus of ankylosaur (armored dinosaur) discovered in 2011 by a joint field party of the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science (NMMNHS, Albuquerque) and the State Museum of Pennsylvania (SMP, Harrisburg) who were working on a BLM-funded survey of the paleontology of the Bisti/De-na-zin Wilderness of northwestern New Mexico. The fossil and several members of the field party who discovered it will be available at the press event next Wednesday at the museum.

Ziapelta is a new kind of armored dinosaur distinguished by unique features of the armor plates on the skull and the uniquely shaped horns that adorn the posterior edges of the skull. Its closest relatives are Late Cretaceous ankylosaurs found north of New Mexico, particularly in Alberta, Canada. The name of the dinosaur is for the Zia sun symbol, Latin pelta (small shield) and San Juan County, New Mexico.

Dr. Robert M. Sullivan, then Curator of Paleontology at the SMP (now retired, and a NMMNHS research associate) discovered the fossil in the Kirtland Formation. The fossil is approximately 73 million years old, which dates it to the late Cretaceous period.

An article describing Ziapelta will be published in the journal PLOS ONE, and will be available next Wednesday at the following link: The research and publication is the work of a team of scientists that includes Victoria Arbour and Michael Burns, both ankylosaur experts at the University of Alberta, Canada; the discoverer, Dr. Robert Sullivan; Fort Hays State University graduate student Joshua Fry; NMMNHS Curator Spencer G. Lucas; Geoscience Collections Manager Amanda Cantrell; and Fossil Preparator Thomas Suazo.

Sullivan, Fry, Lucas, Cantrell, and Suazo were the 2011 field party that discovered the fossil. Cantrell, Suazo, and Sullivan prepared the fossil.

The New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science preserves and interprets the distinctive natural and scientific heritage of our state through extraordinary collections, research, exhibits, and programs designed to ignite a passion for lifelong learning.

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