A terrifying dinosaur with a menacing armoured tail roamed Chile 75 million years ago, a new study reveals.
Researchers have analysed fossils found at Río de las Chinas Valley in the Magallanes Region of Chile, South America.
They report the discovery of a freaky-looking new species, called Stegouros elengassen, which measured around 6.5 feet (two metres) in length.
S. elengassen evolved a large tail weapon unlike those seen in other dinosaurs, with serrated edges in a leaf-like arrangement, according to the team.
The herbivore likely used its tail as a form of defence to fend off small theropod dinosaurs called noasaurids, and large megaraptor predatory dinosaurs.
Stegouros elengassen, evolved a large tail weapon unlike those seen in other dinosaurs, with serrated edges in a leaf-like arrangement (artist's impression)
Río de las Chinas Valley, Estancia Cerro Guido, Magallanes Region, Chile
Scientific name: Stegouros elengassen
Length: 6.5 feet (two metres)
Distribution: Gondwana - Pangaea's southern landmass
Fossil location: Río de las Chinas Valley, Estancia Cerro Guido, Magallanes Region, Chile
The discovery has been presented in a new paper, authored by researchers at Universidad de Chile, Santiago, and published in Nature.
'Armoured dinosaurs are well known for their evolution of specialized tail weapons – paired tail spikes in stegosaurs and heavy tail clubs in advanced ankylosaurs,' they said.
'Here we describe a mostly complete, semi-articulated skeleton of a small armoured dinosaur from the late Cretaceous period of Magallanes in southernmost Chile, a region that is biogeographically related to West Antarctica.'
S. elengassen lived in a delta consisting of intertwining rivers forming islands between them like the modern Nile, as well as plants such as ferns and forests of Nothofagus trees, study author Alexander Vargas told MailOnline.
S. elengassen is as an 'ankylosaur' – a herbivorous group of dinosaurs known for their armoured tank-like bodies and club-shaped tail tips, which lived 70 million to 66 million years ago.
Ankylosaurs from Laurasia, the northern landmass of what was once the Pangaea supercontinent, are well-studied, the researchers say.
Digital reconstruction of the unique tail weapon of the new species of armoured dinosaur Stegouros elengassen. The tail was encased in pairs of dermal bones; a portion of the dermal bones has been digitally sliced away, to reveal the tail vertebrae within
The supercontinent Pangea began fragmenting around 250 million years ago, producing the Northern landmass known as Laurasia and the Southern landmass Gondwana (pictured)
Chilean paleontologist and lead study author Sergio Soto-Acuña, is pictured here with the fossil remains