Ghostbusters and baby dragons inspire new dinosaur names

10 May 2017

Illustration of baby dragons protecting their eggs. Image: Zhao Chuang

There has been a palaeontology bonanza of late, including a baby dragon reveal and a new species of dinosaur with a spooky name.

In 1996, National Geographic published a front-page story about the incredible discovery of a giant fossil egg in China, dating back millions of years to the age of the dinosaurs.

What made this find so incredible to the palaeontology community was that within the egg, there were fossilised remains of a seemingly new species of dinosaur, though this was later proven to be incorrect.

More than 20 years later, the discovery has been examined in detail once again and can now go by its new and exciting name: baby dragon.

According to researchers who recently published their findings in the journal Nature Communications, the 90m-year-old fossil belonged to a group of bird-like dinosaurs known as oviraptors.

With the scientific name of Beibeilong sinensis – or ‘baby dragon of China’ – the creature was gigantic, laying eggs nearly one metre in length in enormous nests, and easily surpassing an ostrich in size – the modern animal it bears most resemblance to.

The creature could have grown to almost eight metres in length, weighing a staggering three tonnes.

So far, only three examples of the baby dragon have been found but surprisingly, its eggs are quite a common find in the world of palaeontology.

Researcher and study co-author, Darla Zelenitsky, said that the number of eggs discovered in Asia and the US indicates that the baby dragon was much more common than our fossil trove suggests.

Baby dragon remains

The fossilised remains of the baby dragon dinosaur. Image: Darla Zelenitsky/University Of Calgary

Who you gonna name?

In other palaeontology news, researchers from the Royal Ontario Museum have dubbed a new species of anklylosaurid, Zuul curivastator.

If your Ghostbusters knowledge is up to scratch, you’ll be familiar with the villain demigod Zuul, the inspiration behind this creature’s new name.

Zuul portrait

Illustration of Zuul crurivastator. Image: Danielle Dufault/Royal Ontario Museum

Measuring 6 metres in length, the anklylosaurid had a powerful, sledgehammer-like tail with two horns placed on its skull, giving it its Zuul-like appearance.

Similar in size to a modern-day white rhino, the creature was found accidentally when a bulldozer pulled up a piece of its tail during a dig for a different dinosaur specimen, according to the LA Times.

Described as a ‘Rosetta Stone’ for dinosaurs, the fossilised remains are some of the best ever found, so much so that its spikes have been found preserved within surviving soft tissue.

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic