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Unknown dinosaur species is a world first

Approx. 78 million years ago, a previously unknown dinosaur the size of a rhino roamed the Earth’s surface. A research team has studied the dinosaur in detail and chosen to name the species after a god of Norse mythology. The dinosaur’s extremely well-preserved skull fossil will soon be exhibited in Denmark.

This summer, for the first time, it will be possible for those outside the narrow group of scientists who have been researching the unusual find for the past many months to see the previously unknown dinosaur when the genuine fossil is exhibited in the Knuthenborg Natural History Collection on Lolland.

Due to the dinosaur’s unique appearance, the research group has chosen to name it after a Norse god. When the newly discovered dinosaur species with the Nordic-sounding name arrives in Denmark at the end of May, it will take place in a transport box that will be only partially opened until the research group’s scientific study has been published. We will have to content ourselves by peeking into the box until the beginning of July, when the entire dinosaur will be revealed.

Until then, the research team is keeping its cards close to its chest both in terms of name and the dinosaur’s exact appearance, as it is extremely rare for a researcher to be given the opportunity to name an as-yet-unknown dinosaur species.

The newly discovered dinosaur species was found in the northern part of the state of Montana in the United States. Here it lived in the Cretaceous period, between 66 and 145 million years ago, when the notorious Tyrannosaurus Rex also ruled the Earth’s surface.

Sensation on Danish soil

The Danish palaeontologist Jesper Milan, who is Curator of Geology at Geomuseum Faxe and whose PhD thesis dealt with dinosaur footprints, has high expectations of seeing the new dinosaur species.

“It is completely unheard of for a newly discovered dinosaur species to be exhibited on Danish soil. I would actually go so far as to call it a sensation. Finding a new dinosaur species alone is unique, and when it is as intact as this specimen, we are looking at something that happens at most once or twice a year worldwide,” explains the dinosaur expert and adds:

“For a nerd like myself, it’s amazing that a previously unknown dinosaur species is coming to Denmark and is also named after a god in Norse mythology. I think this is really big.”

300 million years of wildlife on earth

The dinosaur will be part of the recently opened ‘Knuthenborg Natural History Collection’ in Knuthenborg Safaripark, where more than 300 million years of animal history are on display.

Here, visitors can see the largest European collection of genuine fossils from the Permian period as well as fossils from the time of the dinosaurs. Among other exhibits, you can see the world’s best-preserved Allosaurus known as ‘Big Joe’, which is 95 percent intact. During the summer of this year and 2023, even more dinosaurs will be added to the exhibit.

“It’s crazy to think how animal life has evolved in different cycles for millions of years. With these rare fossils, we aim to give visitors knowledge about the evolution of nature all the way back from Earth’s antiquity to the time of the dinosaurs, and of course to draw parallels to the animals that are living today,” says Safari Park Owner and Director Christoffer Knuth.

When the newly discovered dinosaur species is exhibited, Knuthenborg Safaripark will make the fossil available to researchers, just as with the exhibition’s other fossils. In the winter, the fossil of the unknown dinosaur will be on display at an American museum.

FACT BOX: The unknown dinosaur species with a Nordic name

  • Lived on Earth between 79.5 and 78.2 million years ago in the Cretaceous period. The name and appearance will be revealed by the research team in July, when the scientific study behind the find has been peer-reviewed.
  • Copies of the dinosaur will be on display in both the United States and Canada this summer.
  • The dinosaur will be on permanent exhibition in the Knuthenborg Natural History Collection, which focuses on the evolutionary history of mammals over millions of years.
  • The collection is Europe’s largest collection of animals from the Permian period, and in the years to come the exhibition will be expanded to constitute Europe’s most important exhibition of genuine dinosaurs.
  • The research behind the unknown dinosaur species is led by Associate Professor Mark Loewen, Department of Geology and Geophysics, University of Utah & Resident Research Associate, Natural History Museum of Utah.
  • In Denmark, the research is supervised by palaeontologist Jesper Milan, Curator of Geology at Geomuseum Faxe, and Knuthenborg’s own palaeontologist, Anna Øhlenschlæger.