Gastonia (dinosaur)

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Temporal range: Early Cretaceous, 126Ma
Skeletons at the North American Museum of Ancient Life.
Scientific classification e
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Clade: Dinosauria
Order: Ornithischia
Family: Nodosauridae
Subfamily: Polacanthinae
Genus: Gastonia
Kirkland, 1998
Species: † G. burgei
Binomial name
Gastonia burgei
Kirkland, 1998

Gastonia is a genus of nodosaurid dinosaur from the Early Cretaceous of North America, around 125 million years ago. Closely related to Polacanthus, it has a sacral shield and large shoulder spikes. It is also the first polacanthine dinosaur to have been mounted for display at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, together with the related Gargoyleosaurus. This dinosaur was found in the same quarry as Utahraptor, the largest known dromaeosaurid. It was named after US palaeontologist Rob Gaston.[1]

Discovery and species[edit]

Mounted Cast skull from the collection of the Children's Museum of Indianapolis

Named by James Kirkland in 1998 from material recovered in Grand County Utah, more complete material exists for Gastonia than for any other polacanthine ankylosaur.[1] Unfortunately, a wealth of disarticulated material from a bonebed presents problems as it can be hard to tell how many spikes a particular Gastonia actually had.[1] Gastonia was named after Robert Gaston, the discoverer of the genus. Robert Gaston is a paleoartist, who makes a living from creating museum quality casts and replicas of fossils for private and public collections.

The type species, G. burgei, was found in rocks of the Cedar Mountain Formation (Yellow Cat member), which has been dated to 126 million years ago.[2]

In popular culture[edit]

  • Gastonia was featured in a chapter of Raptor Red, Robert T. Bakker's fictional account of the events in the life of a female Utahraptor. Bakker described defense behaviors as an Acrocanthosaurus attacks a young Gastonia (without success). Later in the novel, male Gastonia are shown to compete in leks, and losers wallow in shallow pools, sometimes exposing their armor-free bellies. Such behavior was speculation informed by modern animals and not based directly on fossil evidence.[3]


  1. ^ a b c Benton, Michael J. (2012). Prehistoric Life. Edinburgh, Scotland: Dorling Kindersley. p. 334. ISBN 978-0-7566-9910-9. 
  2. ^ Kirkland, J.I. and Madsen, S.K. 2007. The Lower Cretaceous Cedar Mountain Formation, eastern Utah: the view up an always interesting learning curve. Fieldtrip Guidebook, Geological Society of America, Rocky Mountain Section. 1-108 p.
  3. ^ Bakker, Robert (September 1996). Raptor Red (paperback ed.). Bantam Books. p. 4. ISBN 0-553-57561-9. 
  • Gaston, R.W., Scellenbach, J., Kirkland, J.I. (2001). "Mounted skeleton of the Polacanthine Ankylosaur Gastonia burgei". In Carpenter, Kenneth(ed). The Armored Dinosaurs. Indiana University Press. pp. 386–398. ISBN 0-253-33964-2. 
  • Blows, W.T. (2001). "Dermal Armor of Polacanthine Dinosaurs". In Carpenter, Kenneth(ed). The Armored Dinosaurs. Indiana University Press. pp. 363–385. ISBN 0-253-33964-2.