Image: Nobu Tamara, Wikimedia Commons

The species Dracorex hogwartsia is known only from one complete skull and four cervical vertebrae — but it’s a fascinating animal with spiky horns and an armored head.

The skull, the atlas, third, eighth and ninth vertebrates were unearthed from the Hell Creek Formation in South Dakota and eventually donated to the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis for study in 2004. The name Dracorex hogwartsia was chosen after young visitors to the museum compared the animal to two dragons from the Harry Potter novel, including the Hungarian Horntail.

Dracorex belongs to a family of flat-headed Pachycephalosauridae. The species was a herbivore distinguished by spiky horns, bumps, and a long muzzle. Its skull was heavily armored and it’s missing the characteristic pachycephalosaurid dome. In addition, the animal is covered with nodes, larger small horns, and spikes. Otherwise it is similar to Stygimoloch.

Image: The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis, Wikimedia Commons

There is some debate between scientists that Dracorex and Stygimoloch are actually just juvenile specimens of the animal Pachycephalosaurus. “The confusion is traced to their bizarre head ornaments, ranging from shields and domes to horns and spikes, which changed dramatically with age and sexual maturity, making the heads of youngsters look very different from those of adults,” states an article on the UC Berkeley website.

Nonetheless, Dracorex is a fascinating creature in its own right. Its most prominent features aside from its flat skull are its impressive temporal openings. They are much larger than other relative species including Homalocephale and Goyocephale, something that has not been seen in pachycephalosaurs. This could indicate a more primitive evolution than its ancestors, serving for another reason to be studied more closely.

Dracorex seems to be as fascinating as the mythological creatures for which it was named.

Image: Ealdgyth, Children’s Museum, Wikimedia Commons