A Ghostly namesake
An armored dinosaur known as an ankylosaurus looked so much like Zuul from the 1984 movie "Ghostbusters" that paleontologists made the monster the dinosaur's namesake.
The newly discovered dinosaur, Zuul crurivastator (CRUR'-uh-vass-TATE'-or), had a short, rounded snout; large horns; and a gnarled appearance, just like Zuul, the fictional Gatekeeper of Gozer in "Ghostbusters."
The skeleton of Z. crurivastator was found in the Judith River Formation in Montana in 2016. The beast lived there about 75 million years ago. [Read the full story on the Zuul-like ankylosaurus and watch the video, with a cameo from "Ghostbusters" actor Dan Aykroyd]
The ankylosaurus's name is, without a doubt, stupendous. The genus name is a nod to its fictional twin, Zuul from "Ghostbusters," and the species name combines "crus," the Latin word for "shin," with "vastator," the Latin word for "destroyer."
Hence, the dinosaur's name translates to Zuul, destroyer of shins — a reference to the weapon-like club at the end of the dinosaur's tail.
Z. crurivastator had several rows of bony spikes covering its entire 20-foot-long (6 meters) body.
For size comparison, here is Z. crurivastator standing next to an adult human.
The study's lead researcher, Victoria Arbour (left), and senior researcher David Evans (right) sit next to the tail club of Z. crurivastator.
The dinosaur's fossilized tail has bony spikes and a preserved imprint of skin.
Ankylosaurus dinosaurs likely used their tails for self-defense, as well as to fight rivals for mates and territory, the researchers said.
The skull of Z. crurivastator.
"Remarkably, [Zuul] is the first ankylosaurin skeleton known with a complete skull and tail club, and it is the most complete ankylosaurid ever found in North America," the researchers wrote in the study.
The club at the end of Z. crurivastator's 10-foot-long (3 m) tail.
A view of the teeth on Z. crurivastator's lower jaw. The dinosaur might have looked fearsome, but it was an herbivore, the researchers said.
The preserved soft-tissue sheath of a bony spike on the tail of Z. crurivastator.
[Read the full story on the Zuul-like ankylosaurus and watch the video, with a cameo from "Ghostbusters" actor Dan Aykroyd]
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Laura is the archaeology and Life's Little Mysteries editor at Live Science. She also reports on general science, including paleontology. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, Scholastic, Popular Science and Spectrum, a site on autism research. She has won multiple awards from the Society of Professional Journalists and the Washington Newspaper Publishers Association for her reporting at a weekly newspaper near Seattle. Laura holds a bachelor's degree in English literature and psychology from Washington University in St. Louis and a master's degree in science writing from NYU.