Reconstruction of Yuxisaurus kopchicki © Yu Chen

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Early Jurassic armoured dinosaur discovered in southwestern China

Scientists from the Natural History Museum, Yunnan University, Yimen Administration of Cultural Heritage, the Chinese Academy of Sciences, the Center for Excellence in Life and Paleoenvironment, and Indiana University of Pennsylvania have described a new species of dinosaur from specimens found in Yunnan Province, China.

The new dinosaur is a thyreophoran, a group which also includes Stegosaurus and Ankylosaurus. Named Yuxisaurus kopchicki, it is the earliest well preserved armoured dinosaur found in Asia to date, living around 192–174 million years ago during the Early Jurassic. The discovery of the dinosaur confirms the rapid geographic spread and diversification of this group of dinosaurs after its first appearance around 200 million years ago.

Yuxisaurus kopchicki had a heavy build, distinctive spiked armour and numerous unusual features of its skull, particularly with respect to the bones that would have originally surrounded its brain.

The remains of the species consist of a single incomplete skeleton, including parts of the skull, jaws, vertebral column, shoulder girdle, limbs and large numbers of armour spines and plates.

Professor Paul Barrett, Merit Researcher at the Natural History Museum and first author on the paper, said: ‘Although we’ve had tantalizing fragments of early armoured dinosaurs from Asia, this is the first time we’ve had enough material to recognize a new species from the region and investigate its evolutionary history. I hope it’s the first of many new dinosaurs from the localities being discovered by my colleagues in Yunnan.’

Prof. Barrett and his colleagues described the new species, naming it Yuxisaurus kopchicki: Yuxisaurus referring to the discovery site in Yuxi Prefecture, China, and kopchicki after molecular biologist Dr John J. Kopchick in recognition of his contributions to biology and the Indiana University of Pennsylvania Science Building.

Dr Shundong Bi, a professor at Indiana University of Pennsylvania and senior author on the paper, said: ‘Yuxisaurus was possibly a facultative quadrupedal. It was primarily adapted for walking on four legs, but also able to walk on two legs.’

The study A new early-branching armoured dinosaur from the Lower Jurassic of southwestern China is published in eLife. It can be accessed here.

Notes to editors

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Images and paper available to download here.

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