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Amateur Fossil Hunter Accidentally Discovers New Species of Horned Dinosaur in Montana

May 19, 2016 12:04 PM EDT
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More than a decade ago, an amateur fossil hunter dug up dinosaur bones in Montana. As it turns out, luck is truly on his side.

In 2005, retired nuclear physicist Bill Ship hired an amateur paleontologist to show him the ins and outs of fossil hunting. He conducted his first search in a ranch that he had recently acquired near the Upper Missouri River Breaks National Monument. It was during this time that he stumbled upon a leg bone of a dinosaur, which was dubbed as "Judith" after the Judith River rock formation where it was found.

In a report, Shipp told Associated Press that he found the bone accidentally.

"I was actually looking for dinosaur bones, but with no expectation of actually finding any," Ship added, as reported by AP.

His luck did not end with the discovery because as it turns out, the leg bone he unearthed was found out to be a representative of a previously-unknown dinosaur that lived 76 million years ago.

According to the study published in the journal PLOS ONE, Judith belongs to the species Spiclypeus shipporum, which is closely related to the widely known Triceratops that are approximately 15-feet long and weighs about four tons.

The first part of the name of the new species is the latin term for spiked shield, referencing the unusual spikes coming out of the dinosaurs head. The second part of the name was made to honor Shipp and his family.

Researchers noted that Judith was at least 10 years old when it died. The discovered leg bone also showed signs of infection that left Judith to hobble, leaving it vulnerable for large predatory dinosaurs living during that time.

"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," Canadian Museum of Nature paleontologist Jordan Mallon said in a report from The Guardian.

"If you're hobbling along on three limbs, you're probably not going to be able to keep up with the herd," added Mallon.

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