Only the Zuul in this instance isn’t a wild-haired Sigourney Weaver possessed by the villain Zuul in the original 1984 “Ghostbusters” film, but a newly-identified, tail-swinging bad…lands dinosaur.
Officially dubbed “Zuul crurivastator” by the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM), the 75-million-year-old herbivore has been named after “Ghostbusters’” Zuul the Gatekeeper of Gozer because of its skull’s resemblance to the blockbuster creature’s horned head.
“Like Zuul, the new species has a short, rounded snout and prominent horns behind the eyes,” ROM paleontologist David Evans said in a press release on Tuesday.
The Ontario museum acquired the well-preserved skeleton in 2016 and set to work researching its unique features.
Along with the short snout and distinctive horns, the new dinosaur was also covered in spikes and wielded a powerful tail with a club on its end to wack other predators, such as the Tyrannosaurus rex, or to use in battle during contests for mates and territory. It’s unclear how the “Ghostbusters” team’s protein packs would have stacked up against that kind of weaponry.
The dinosaur’s armoured body allows it to be categorized into the anklylosaurid species from the Late Cretaceous Period and the second part of its name “crurivastator” means “destroyer of shins.”
“I’ve been working on ankylosaurs for years, and the spikes running all the way down Zuul’s tail were a fantastic surprise to me – like nothing I’ve ever seen in a North American ankylosaur,” Victoria Arbour, an evolutionary biologist and paleontologist at the ROM, said in the press release.
The dinosaur’s fossils were discovered in the northern Montana badlands, approximately 25 kilometres from the Alberta border, along the Milk River in 2014 by a commercial fossil company searching for tyrannosaur skeletons.
It was excavated from the Judith River Formation of Montana, where some of the first dinosaurs ever discovered in North America were found.
Arbour and her colleague, Evans, realized that the approximately 6-metre-long (20-feet) and 2,500-kilogram (5,500-pound) dinosaur was a new species while they were studying it last year.
“It was the size and shape of the tail club and tail spikes, combined with the shape of the horns and ornaments on the skull, that confirmed this skeleton was a new species of ankylosaur,” Arbour explained. The ROM researchers said the discovery makes Zuul one of the most complete and best-preserved ankylosaurs ever.
“Not only is the skeleton almost completely intact, but large parts of the bony armour in the skin are still in its natural position,” Evans, the leader of the project, said. “Most excitingly, soft tissues such as scales and the horny sheaths of spikes are preserved.”
The ROM scientists aren’t the only ones excited about the latest addition to the ankylosaur species, “Ghostbusters” star and co-writer Dan Aykroyd (aka. Ray Stantz in the film) paid a visit to the new Zuul in Toronto. In a YouTube video released by the ROM on Tuesday, Aykroyd introduces the skull of the new dinosaur species and compares it to a photo of the “terror dog” or Zuul character in the blockbuster.
“We’re so honoured that the Royal Ontario Museum would accord the name of this magnificent creature with the appellation that we called our “terror dog” in the movie,” he said.
With intimidating horns and a menacing three-metre long tail covered in spikes and ending in a club, the “Ghostbusters” gang should thank their lucky stars they missed the real-life Zuul roaming the North American badlands millions of years ago.