New horned dinosaur species discovered in Montana by amateur
BILLINGS, Mont. — A novice fossil collector’s lucky find in a remote Montana badlands more than a decade ago turned out to be a new kind of spectacularly horned dinosaur, researchers announced Wednesday.
The bones unearthed near Winifred, Mont., represent a previously unknown species that lived 76 million years ago.
It’s scientific name is Spiclypeus shipporum, but it’s been nicknamed “Judith” after the Judith River rock formation where it was found in 2005 by retired nuclear physicist Bill Shipp.
Canadian Museum of Nature paleontologist Jordan Mallon says Judith is closely related to the well-known triceratops. Both had horned faces and elaborate head frills, although Judith’s horns stick out sideway instead of over the eyes.
Like triceratops, Judith was a plant-eater, about 15 feet long and weighing up to 4 tons, Mallon said.
Shipp said he stumbled across what turned out to be Judith’s femur bone in 2005.
He had hired an amateur paleontologist to give him an introduction to fossil hunting on a ranch Shipp owned near the Upper Missouri River Breaks National Monument. As Shipp worked his way around an eroded rocky outcropping on the property, he saw a piece of bone sticking several inches out of the ground.
“I found it accidentally on purpose,” Shipp said. “I was actually looking for dinosaur bones, but with no expectation of actually finding any.”
After recovering six bones during an initial dig, Shipp brought in a team the next summer that spent two years excavating and cleaning the bones.
They ended up with half of Judith’s skull and parts of its legs, hips and backbone. It wasn’t until last year, after the bones were acquired by the Canadian Museum of Nature, that Mallon formally identified them as belonging to a new species of dinosaur.