Zuul, Gatekeeper of Gozer — demigod and minion of the 1984 film Ghostbusters — now has some basis in reality due to an accidental discovery made in a sizable Montana quarry in 2014 while digging for tyrannosaurus skeletons. The resemblance of the skeleton is so akin to its Ghostbusters villainous counterpart that scientists have aptly named the ankylosaur Zuul crurivastator — the most thorough specimen of ankylosaur currently to have been revealed.
The fossil excavation company mistakenly bumped into the gigantic spiked and cudgel-like tail; though it likely was a supreme defensive weapon against other predators, scientists postulate it was more strongly used to duke it out against members of the Zuul crurivastator species for territory and mating rights. Zuul crurivastator literally translates to “Zuul, destroyer of shins” in Latin.
“We couldn’t resist,” said Victoria Arbour, a scientist from the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto.
Members of the ankylosaurus genus, meaning “fused lizard,” are often referred to as “living tanks” by paleontologists due to their great defensive capabilities. Comprised almost entirely of scutes and osteoderms, their massive knobs and oval bone plates are made up of the same fibrous proteins found in the hair and nails of humans. The ankylosaur shares many similar features to reptiles such as crocodiles and some species of lizard.
Much like Zuul in Ghostbusters, the neoteric species had a round, concise facial structure with protruding horns behind its eyes. Zuul also has a tail nearly measuring over 10 feet in length — so, it would have been wise to keep a distance from both the real thing and the fictional Ghostbusters demon.
“The preservation of the fossil is truly remarkable. Not only is the skeleton almost completely intact, but large parts of the bony armor in the skin are still in its natural position. Most excitingly, soft tissues such as scales and the horny sheaths of spikes are preserved, which will be a focus of our future research,” said Dr. David Evans of the Royal Ontario Museum, who is also the assignment lead. Uncovering fossils of this nature continue to give us an even better look into the past and what these colossal behemoths truly appeared to be like, which might not be unlike the frightening presence Zuul itself had in the Ghostbusters film.
Scientists at the museum were inspired to name the creature after the small, diabolical dog-like Zuul despite being anything but — clocking in at a whopping 20 feet long and weighing more than 2.5 tons. It not only had a formidable weapon at its disposal, but was also heavily armored, a signature trademark of the ankylosaurus. Whether the Zuul crurivastator actually used its substantial plate for battle is unlikely, as research has shown it was more feasibly used as a method of communication.
Unlike the Zuul found in Sigourney Weaver’s apartment in Ghostbusters, Zuul crurivastator did not live in a refrigerator, but primarily in isolation in North America about 75 million years ago during the Late Cretaceous Period. Zuul crurivastator was also present long before any humans, so it is safe to say that the Sumerians, Mesopotamians, and Hittites did not interact with Zuul.
So, for now, Zuul is just another dinosaur, but a prolific find for scientists in the field and our understanding of creatures who once occupied the planet. And if you find yourself stumbling across any time machines, you might want to avoid the large tank-looking beast with a hammer of a tail worthy of being wielded by Thor himself.
Though if you do, do not fret; Zuul crurivastator likely did not “devour shins” as its name would suggest, as it was a vegetarian. Maybe it is a good thing giant marshmallow men likely do not leave fossils.
[Featured Image by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Staff/Getty Images]