In the world of paleontology, digging in search of ancient bones is only part of the process. And even then it is generally digging in the ground in dirt and rock that has not been disturbed for millions of years. So when a new species of dinosaur was unearthed recently in a museum basement, it was a surprise for two reasons. Of course the first was the fact that the dinosaur was discovered underground was normal enough, but the fact that it was discovered among old boxes was not. And it was a previously never before seen species on top of that.
The London History Museum has had its fair share of strange events, as museums so often do since its opening in 1881. As far as tourist attractions go, even the public description of the location suggests it’s a place full of surprises between the T-Rex skeletons long dug up and the myriad other dinosaur bones. But this latest dinosaur making headlines is like nothing any of the curators has ever seen before. The creature’s skeleton, which was discovered in the basement, immediately began perplexing the team analyzing it as they spotted the first few bones.
When it was finally put together fully, the bones told a very peculiar tale. They suggested that the creature, which was approximately the size of a fully grown bull, had features similar to the triceratops, but with two peculiar horns on the top of its head with hooks that curled both downward and toward the front and up and to the back. The bones, which were peculiar to say the least, suggest that there may still be quite a bit about the late cretaceous period that we have yet to unearth.
Perhaps strangest of all, however, is the fact that the bones unearthed in the basement had been dug up nearly a century ago in a quarry in 1916. They were soon transported to the museum after the bones were largely discarded as nonsense – as they did not fit into any known dinosaur species’ anatomy. The fossilized bones then found themselves on the other side of the world in London where they were shuffled into the basement and waited there for nearly a century before their true meaning could be unearthed. Of course this is also not the first time a truly remarkable find has been the result of someone looking through the inventory of previous digs. But this is one of the most remarkable dinosaur skeletons unearthed after so much time underground.
The Spinops sternbergoru, as it is being called, may prove to be a symbol of just how strange the cretaceous period could have been compared to what we are used to hearing about it. For the most part, the mysterious horns at the top of its head, and the spines that run downward toward its skull evolved for unknown purpose. But it’s unlikely these horns would have been used for capturing prey as the Spinops is said to have been herbivorous.