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What is Ankylosauria?

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Pronunciation: ANG-ki-lo-SOR-ee-uh
Author: Henry Fairfield Osborn
Year: 1923
Meaning: Fused lizards (see etymology)
Locomotion: Quadrupedal (four legs)
Synonyms: Non known
[Sereno, 2005]Definition
The most inclusive clade containing Ankylosaurus magniventris but not Stegosaurus stenops.
Ankylosauria is a group of late Jurassic to late Cretaceous-aged quadrupedal thyreophoran ornithischians, whose members (ankylosaurs) are affectionately known as tank dinosaurs because of their wide, low slung appearance and oval to oblong armour plates arranged in side to side bands across their shoulders, back and tail. Smaller armour nodules protect their legs and underside and fill the gaps between larger plates, and the roof of their thick skulls were sculpted into armour lumps. Two out of the five pairs of windows (fenestrae) which are present in other dinosaur skulls for load-lightening have been fused shut, and in extreme cases even the cheeks and/or eyelids were armoured. To carry this extra weight ankylosaurs had short but powerful limbs and particularly strong shoulder and pelvic girdles, though not all were created equal; Ankylosauria houses several armoured batallions which sport unique twists of their own.

Ankylosauridae: The heavy duty ankylosaurs with heavy, as wide or wider than long, almost triangular heads when viewed from above, large armour plates, and clubbed tails for self-defence. Short wide snouts suggest they were unfussy, low foliage grazers.

Nodosauridae: Nodosaurids don't have a clubbed tail, and have simpler armour 'nodes' but this is counter-balanced by a series of nasty looking spikes on their shoulders and neck. Their skulls are longer than they are wide, and pear-shaped when viewed from above. Slender snouts suggest they were picky, low foliage browsers.

Polacanthidae: This group was coined by Wieland way back in 1911 during a rant at the uneccesary raising of new family names, but he didn't provide a definition because, weirdly, he thought it was synonymous with Nodosauridae, and this is where its members were assigned by most paleontologists until it was resurrected by Kenneth Carpenter in 2001. Described as having "the skull of an ankylosaurid on the skeleton of a nodosaurid" which really doesn't do them justice, polacanthids are the most lightly armoured ankylosaurs and lack a clubbed tail but sport triangular plates along their neck, back and tail. Some experts suspect that Polacanthidae is a sub-group of primitive critters belonging in Nodosauridae, in which case it would adopt the sub-family suffix and become Polacanthinae.

It's an indication of ankylosaurs "intelligence" that the much larger Tyrannosaurus rex was a genius by comparison but had a brain the size of a banana! Plus, they were probably stinking wind-bags; a rather unfortunate side effect of belly-fulls of fermenting foliage, but they were non the worse for it.
The first ankylosaurs rose in the early Jurassic of China then diversified and farted their way across every continent barring Africa right up to the end of the age of dinosaurs when it took a six mile wide meteorite to stop them dead in their tracks. But the fossil record suggests their numbers were being thinned out a couple of million years before that.

Click here to view Dinochecker's full A-Z list of all Ankylosaurs.
Fused LizardsEtymology
Ankylosauria is derived from the Greek "ankylos" (fused), "sauros" (lizard), and "-ia" (neuter plural). They're a family anchored by Ankylosaurus -- the "fused lizard".
• Carpenter K. (2001) "The Armored Dinosaurs". /uk.
• Vickaryous M.K., Maryańska T. and Weishampel D.B. (2004) "Ankylosauria" in Weishampel, Dodson and Osmólska "The Dinosauria: Second Edition". /uk.
• Kirkland J.I., Alcalá L., Loewen M.A., Espílez E., Mampel L. and Wiersma J.P. (2013) "The basal nodosaurid ankylosaur Europelta carbonensis n. gen., n. sp. from the Lower Cretaceous (lower Albian) Escucha Formation of northeastern Spain".
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To cite this page:
Atkinson, L. "DinoChecker FAQ entry :: What is Ankylosauria?"
http://www.dinochecker.com/dinosaurfaqs/what-is-ankylosauria›. Web access: 24th Feb 2018.