Amateur Fossil Hunter Discovers Horny New Dinosaur in His Backyard

Artist’s concept of Spiclypeus shipporum (Image: Canadian Museum of Nature)
Artist’s concept of Spiclypeus shipporum (Image: Canadian Museum of Nature)

Meet Spiclypeus shipporum, a new Triceratops-like dinosaur that was just discovered by an amateur fossil-hunter in his own backyard.


The bones—consisting of an almost complete half skull, legs, hips, and backbones—were initially discovered by Bill Shipp, a nuclear physicist who hunts fossils as a hobby, on his tract of land in Montana in 2005. After making the find, he called in paleontologists to excavate and then shipped all the bones over to the Canadian Museum of Nature. After the more than ten year excavation and identification process, museum researchers have now finally determined it to be a new species.

Although new, Spiclypeus shipporum looks awfully familiar. With its frilled head and spiky-face, the 80 million-year-old dinosaur joins the horned dinosaur family as a fairly close relative to the Triceratops. Still, Spiclypeus shipporum (nicknamed “Judith” by researchers, after the Judith River Formation in Montana, where it was found) has some unique features, like spikes which point in all directions.

Details on the new species were released in a paper in PLOS One, along with a theory for what ultimately killed Judith. The researchers determined that the dinosaur’s bones were so brittle by the time of her death that she could barely walk. The bones were riddled with holes from an infection, and the dinosaur also had a form of arthritis.

“It’s an exciting story, because it’s a new species, and yet we have this sort of pathetic individual that suffered throughout its lifetime. If you’re hobbling along on three limbs, you’re probably not going to be able to keep up with the herd,” lead author Jordan Mallon explained to the AP.

The fossil will be on display in the Canadian Museum of Nature starting next week. Or, if you can’t make it to Canada, you can check out an interactive, zoomable model of its skull right here:




All I have in my backyard are alluvial fan deposits, hundreds of feet deep. I feel somehow cheated.