Paleontology is fascinating, in part because there are so many unanswered questions about the prehistoric world, with new mysteries being uncovered all the time, including two new species of pachycephalosaurs, unearthed in northeast Montana’s Hell Creek Formation in 2023. One of these was bestowed with scientific name Platytholusclemensi.

A partial skull, discovered on the Charles M. Russell National Wildlife Refuge in Garfield County was used to classify Platytholusclemensi as a new species. Like other members of the family Pachycephalosauridae, Platytholusclemensi was a bipedal herbivore with a bony dome atop its head.

While it was once widely believed that pachycephalosaurs used their domes for head-butting contests, research appears to suggest otherwise. In studying Platytholusclemensi, famed paleontologist, Jack Horner and his colleagues concluded that there was no evidence, based on bone structure, that pachycephalosaurs could withstand a head-to-head collision without major damage to the skull, neck, and/or brain.

What study of this specimen did reveal was an abundance of neurovascular canals passing through the exterior of the skull, suggesting that a structure of some kind existed on the surface of the animal’s dome. This seems to support another popular theory that a pachycephalosaur’s dome was used as part of a mating ritual, as with some modern-day species of birds.

As Platytholusclemensi helps to inform our understanding of pachycephalosaurs, its name also pays tribute to William Clemens, a man who dedicated his life to the study of prehistoric life. “William Clemens was the person who, back in 1978, said, ‘You know, Jack, there’s this woman in Bynum, Montana, who found a large dinosaur, and she needs it identified,’” said Jack Horner of the late UC Berkley paleontologist. It was on that trip that Horner and his colleagues discovered the maiasaura nesting site, which forever changed our understanding of dinosaurs. “I owe a great amount of gratitude to Bill Clemens for sending me on that little trip,” said Horner.

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