An exciting new species discovery, especially for Harry Potter fans, is officially on the books. It’s called Dracorex hogwartsia and is a plant eating pachycephalosaur.
Paleontologist, Dr. Robert Bakker, explains how he came up with the name:
“The creature is a very special dinosaur that seems at home in a “Harry Potter” adventure. It was a plant-eater, only about as heavy as the war horse of a medieval knight. And it carried an armor-plated head of almost magical configuration, covered with knobs and spikes, horns and crests. I was staring at the skull last summer, and the name just popped into my head, hogwartsia.”
The full name, Dracorex hogwartsia, comes from the Latin words draco (meaning dragon), rex (meaning king), and hogwartsia (after the fictional Hogwarts School for Witchcraft and Wizardry created by J.K. Rowling)
Author J.K. Rowling was delighted by the naming and wrote: “The naming of Dracorex hogwartsia is easily the most unexpected honour to have come my way since the publication of the Harry Potter books! I am absolutely thrilled to think that Hogwarts has made a small (claw?) mark upon the fascinating world of dinosaurs … I am very much looking forward to reading Dr. Bakker’s paper describing ‘my’ dinosaur, which I can’t help visualising as a slightly less pyromaniac Hungarian Horntail.”
The nearly complete pachycephalosaur skull was donated to The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis by Steve Saulsbury, Patrick Saulsbury and Brian Buckmeier, all from Sioux City, Iowa. The three friends found the fossil during a fossil collecting trip in the Hell Creek Formation in central South Dakota, and agreed the museum would be the perfect home for the specimen. Brought to the museum’s Paleo Prep Lab for cleaning and studying, it was little more than a box of parts, shattered by erosion before its discovery. It took Victor Porter, the vertebrate paleontologist at The Children’s Museum, two years to patiently glue together the many fragments.
Fierce debates have raged about whether the pachy’s butted each other, but since no good neck bones had been found, conclusive evidence was lacking. The Children’s Museum Paleo Lab personnel scored a cretaceous triumph when they pieced together four nearly complete neck vertebrae for D. hogwartsia. Special anti-twist joints and enlarged muscle attachments seem to show that these dinosaurs indulged in violent kinetic exercises. “They were head-bangers!” said Bakker.
If you’d like to get a peek at this dino critter visit the The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis where it is on display. The museum has also kindly hosted the scientific paper describing D. hogwartsia online and you can read it yourself here: Dracorex hogwartsia, n. gen., n. sp., a spiked, flat-headed pachycephalosaurid dinosaur from the Upper Cretaceous Hell Creek Formation of South Dakota. [pdf]