This is speculative, but having a well-articulated skeleton gives future paleontologists something more to look at than a thick skull. The study authors found perforated holes on the skeleton, evidence of dermestid beetles, which are known for their appetite for rotting flesh. That suggests the animal laid around for at least a little while post-mortem.


“Digging like modern-day elephants as for minerals, food, or water, I could see, as this behavior has been suggested for sauropods as well,” said ReBecca Hunt-Foster, the paleontologist for Dinosaur National Monument in Utah, who is unaffiliated with the new paper. “They may also have used their digging to excavate nests. Behavior can be hard to infer from body fossils alone, however.”

The researchers also found five theropod phalanges embedded in the ankylosaur’s ribs—clearly, this dinosaur had a good reason to wear so much protection.