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King of Hogwarts

King of Hogwarts

'Hogwarts' Dragon Unveiled
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May 23, 2006 — A dragon-like dinosaur named after Harry Potter's alma mater has performed a bit of black magic on its own family tree, say paleontologists who unveiled the "Dragon King of Hogwarts" on Monday in Albuquerque.

The newly described horny-headed dinosaur Dracorex hogwartsia  lived about 66 million years ago in South Dakota, just a million years short of the extinction of all dinosaurs. But its flat, almost storybook-style dragon head has overturned everything paleontologists thought they knew about the dome-head dinos called pachycephalosaurs.

"What you knew about pachycephalosaurs -- you can chuck it," said Spencer Lucas, curator of paleontology at the New Mexico Museum of Natural History.

"Dracorex hogwartsia is a rather fantastic new dinosaur," affirmed paleontologist Robert Sullivan of the State Museum of Pennsylvania.


One Scary Skull

One Scary Skull

For years dinosaur experts had thought the classic dome-headed, head-butting sorts of pachycephalosaurs evolved from earlier flat-headed ancestors. The last thing they expected to find at the end of the Age of Dinosaurs was a dramatically flat-headed pachycerphalosaurs, or "pachy."

"If you were going to predict the kind of dinosaur that would live at that time, it would not be this," said Lucas.

Without so much as a nod of the head or the waving of a wand, hogwartsia  has reversed the pachy family tree.

"Instead of going from flat-headed to domed, you're going from dome-headed to flat," Sullivan told Discovery News. Along with several colleagues, Sullivan co-authored the first detailed study of the new dinosaur, published this week in the New Mexico Museum of Natural History & Science Bulletin.

Dracorex hogwartsia, which translates as "Dragon King of Hogwarts," was unearthed in 2003 in the Hell Creek Formation of South Dakota by three amateur fossil hunters working in cooperation with the Children's Museum of Indianapolis. But it wasn't until it was at the museum, while the fossil was being carefully prepared, that renowned dinosaur researcher Robert Bakker happened to catch sight of it while visiting. Bakker then recruited pachycerphalosaurs expert Sullivan and other paleontologists to take a closer look.

As for how it got its name? A group of children at the Children's Museum of Indianapolis drew the connection to the fanciful school of witchcraft that the famous fictional wizard Harry Potter attends and came up with the name hogwartsia..

"It's a very dragon-like looking dinosaur," said Sullivan.

J.K. Rowling, author of the Harry Potter series, has been notified and apparently rather likes the new name.

"I am absolutely thrilled to think that Hogwarts has made a small claw mark upon the fascinating world of dinosaurs," said Rowling, according to a museum press release. "I happen to know more on the subject of paleontology than many might credit, because my eldest daughter was Utahraptor-obsessed and I am now living with a passionate Tyrannosaurus rex-lover, aged three.

"My credibility has soared within my science-loving family, and I am very much looking forward to reading Dr. Bakker and his colleague's paper describing 'my' dinosaur."

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Picture: State Museum of Pennsylvania | Larry O'Hanlon|
Contributor: Larry O'Hanlon |

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