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Bizarre tail weaponry in a transitional ankylosaur from subantarctic Chile
Nature  (IF49.962),  Pub Date : 2021-12-01, DOI: 10.1038/s41586-021-04147-1
Sergio Soto-Acuña, Alexander O. Vargas, Jonatan Kaluza, Marcelo A. Leppe, Joao F. Botelho, José Palma-Liberona, Carolina Simon-Gutstein, Roy A. Fernández, Héctor Ortiz, Verónica Milla, Bárbara Aravena, Leslie M. E. Manríquez, Jhonatan Alarcón-Muñoz, Juan Pablo Pino, Cristine Trevisan, Héctor Mansilla, Luis Felipe Hinojosa, Vicente Muñoz-Walther, David Rubilar-Rogers

Armoured dinosaurs are well known for their evolution of specialized tail weapons—paired tail spikes in stegosaurs and heavy tail clubs in advanced ankylosaurs1. Armoured dinosaurs from southern Gondwana are rare and enigmatic, but probably include the earliest branches of Ankylosauria2,3,4. Here we describe a mostly complete, semi-articulated skeleton of a small (approximately 2 m) armoured dinosaur from the late Cretaceous period of Magallanes in southernmost Chile, a region that is biogeographically related to West Antarctica5. Stegouros elengassen gen. et sp. nov. evolved a large tail weapon unlike any dinosaur: a flat, frond-like structure formed by seven pairs of laterally projecting osteoderms encasing the distal half of the tail. Stegouros shows ankylosaurian cranial characters, but a largely ancestral postcranial skeleton, with some stegosaur-like characters. Phylogenetic analyses placed Stegouros in Ankylosauria; specifically, it is related to Kunbarrasaurus from Australia6 and Antarctopelta from Antarctica7, forming a clade of Gondwanan ankylosaurs that split earliest from all other ankylosaurs. The large osteoderms and specialized tail vertebrae in Antarctopelta suggest that it had a tail weapon similar to Stegouros. We propose a new clade, the Parankylosauria, to include the first ancestor of Stegouros—but not Ankylosaurus—and all descendants of that ancestor.