Science & Technology
3:00 pm
Mon December 2, 2013

Major Dinosaur Discovery in Spain has a Utah Connection

Archeologists at an open pit coal mine in Spain have discovered the most well preserved ankylosaur, ever found in Europe, but the discovery has roots right here in Utah.

Dr. James Kirkland is the state paleontologist at the Utah Geological Survey. He’s been studying dinosaurs for 40 years. Recently, he’s been working on reclassifying all of the wide, heavily armored kind of dinosaurs. So when researchers in Spain called him up to ask his help identifying newly discovered fossils, he didn’t hesitate to say yes.

“What a gift," he says. "This is such an important discovery and it puts such a wonderful light on some of the things we’re finding in Utah. You know, we would have never have realized that our own first nodosaurs in Utah were separate from the ones in Europe without having this better European specimen that put all those animals in context.”

Kirkland says they spent months examining photos from Spain to prepare their report. He says it was an incredible international effort, but that it wasn’t without its complications.

“Though I have to admit that the logistics of them sending all the pictures was entertaining,” he says.

They named the newly discovered species Europelta carbonensis, which literally means Europe’s shield from the coal. The full report on the discovery can be found in the open-access scientific journal PLOS ONE.