As noted at the start of the year, we will be examining dinosaur baramins throughout the year. We invited our twitter followers to give us suggestions for the next baramin we should examine and one of our regular readers, ApoloJedi, suggested the Ankylosaurids. It was an excellent suggestion, which we examine below. We should emphasize upfront that we lack access to any of these fossils, and many of the research papers describing them are behind paywalls, often for the ridiculous sum of $40 per paper before tax. Therefore we have had to work with what is freely available.
The Ankylosaurids is a large dinosaur family. This is not terribly surprising, given how sturdy they were built. They had thick, heavy armor that covered the vast majority of their bodies, along with their characteristic tail clubs. They are believed to have been grazers that lived from the early to late Cretaceous period. They supposedly lived in a variety of habitats and there is even some speculation that one or two species could swim. As best as I can tell, there are thirty different genera of Ankylosaurs. However, eleven of them are so fragmentary I’m unsure whether they should be classified as their own genera. One of them the scientists note could be classified with another member of the Ankylosaurid group. This is standard practice unfortunately within the paleontological community. They find a few bones and erect a whole genus out of it. The fragmentary nature of each of the genera that to me are unclear varies considerably. Perhaps with a full examination of the bones, I could understand why they are classified as they are in some cases. However, in most cases, they seem to be grasping at straws.
Within the Ankylosaurs, there are two distinct groups based on morphology. The larger group consists of Talarurus, Scolosaurus, Ankylosaurs, Tianzhenosaurus, Pinacosaurus, Saichania, Anodontosaurus, Akainacephalus, Zuul, Tarchia, Crichtonpelta, Aletopelta, and Jinyunpelta. The much smaller group consists of Euoplocephalus, Kunbarrasaurus, Zhongyuansaurus, Dyoplosaurus, and Minmi. These groups are very similar but are distinguished by the latter group lacking a clubbed tail, at least based on what we could determine.
According to the evolutionist, there is a clear outlier in the group. Liaoningosaurus has been interpreted either as a juvenile or as a swimming ankylosaur. It’s also been argued over whether it is a nodosaur or an ankylosaur. It was this dinosaur that reminded me of the existence of the Nodosaurs and how similar they are to the ankylosaurs. We, therefore, need to examine the Nodosaurs as well to determine the ankylosaur baramin appropriately. (Technically there is a third group, the Polocanthus, but it is very small and similar to both Ankylosaurs and Nodosaurs so I’ve condensed it in with them for simplicity)
Nodosaurs are very similar to Ankylosaurs in many respects, at least as far as the armor and spiked plating is concerned. There are thirty-three genera classified as Nodosaurs as best I can tell, though numerous genera have been moved in and out of the Ankylosaurs over the years. Scientists still squabble over exactly which genera are Nodosaurs and which are Ankylosaurs. Many of the Nodosaurs are fragmentary in nature. Eighteen are so fragmentary that they seem unworthy of their own genera. In fact, one, Acantholipan, was originally considered too fragmentary to classify. Another, Propanoplosaurus, is almost certainly a newly hatched juvenile of another species. The remaining Nodosaurs for which we have solid fossil evidence group fairly solidly together. The remaining Nodosaurs that group together are: Gastonia, Animantarx, Sauropelta, Antarctopelta, Borealopelta, Struthiosaurus, Panoplosaurus, Gargoyleosaurus, Hungarosaurus, Nodosaurus, Peloroplites, Polacanthus, and Edmontonia. The group strongly overlaps with the smaller group of Ankylosaurs.
The major difference between the Nodosaurs and the small group of Ankylosaurs they overlap with, and the majority of Ankylosaurs is the tail club. Nodosaurs lack it entirely, while most Ankylosaurs have it. However, this could be explained by a chain of post-fall mutations in one lineage. There are a few other differences, such as the shape of the head and size of the spines, but again, these could well be post-fall variations. The overall form and function of the two groups is the same, It therefore seems likely that the Ankylosaurs and the Nodosaurs are members of the same baramin. In fact, I’ve already demonstrated this, you just don’t realize it yet. The image at the top of this article that you assumed was an Ankylosaur is, in fact, the Nodosaur Sauropelta. Because it looked so much like an Ankylosaur, you most likely assumed that’s what it was, albeit with some odd spines. From what we can determine, Nodosaurs and Ankylosaurs should tentatively be placed together.
I should point out here that this classification is highly tentative. We do not have access to the fossils, nor do we have access to many of the papers classifying them. All we have is pictures of the bones as they are publicly available, artist representations (which we put little stock in), and the few papers we were able to obtain, it appears that Nodosaurs and Ankylosaurs belong in the same baramin. We are open to overturning this if more evidence comes to light.
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