As Jurassic World continues to rule over every other movie as the box office, a new study reveals that paleontologists in Canada have found the remains of a previously unknown species of dinosaur. It has spikes that sit above its eyes and it’s one of the oldest Triceratops relatives to have been discovered so far.
The creature was named Wendiceratops Pinhornensis, in honor of Wendy Sloboda, the professional fossil hunter who discovered the remains back in 2010. She is also responsible for discovering hundreds of other important fossils over the course of the past three (3) decades. The literal translation of the name would be something humorous along the line of “Wendy’s horned-face”.
The ancient animal was a horned dinosaur that not only had spikes sitting above its eyes, but also on its nose and almost all along its neck. It sported a bony beak, grew to weight no less than one ton, roamed the Earth roughly 79 million years ago and is considered to be the Triceratops’ older (13 million years older), long lost cousin.
The research team reconstructed the image of the Wendiceratops Pinhornensis from more than 200 bone remains that Sloboda found in southern Alberta, at a research site. They belong to four (4) different specimens, and Sloboda knew that they belonged to a species of Ceratopsidea pretty much instantly upon seeing part of a skull.
David Evans, lead author and dinosaur curator over at the Royal Ontario Museum, gave a statement saying that Sloboda “came across the site in 2010 and it actually had parts of the skull weathering out on the surface. When she brought them to us, we were very excited because the parts she brought back were part of the frill which has that characteristic ornamentation”.
He went on to add that he and his colleague and co-author, Michael Ryan, knew right away that they were most likely looking at a new species of Ceratopsidea as well. They started digging for the first time in 2011 and found more fragments of the frill. That was when they became certain that this was indeed a new species.
What is special and unique about the Wendiceratops Pinhornensis is that the ancient animal is the first to have a wide frill that is ringed by many curled horns, and that the one on the creature’s nose was large and upright. All of these in combination with the horns sitting over the eyes make the Wendiceratops Pinhornensis one of the most visually striking horned dinosaurs to have ever lived on our planet.
Evans informed that there is a great deal of diversity among species of horned dinosaurs. The experts usually tell them apart by the different shapes, sizes and directions that the horns of their heads took, as well as by the unique features of their neck shields.
The author also shared that the Wendiceratops Pinhornensis is a particularly extravagant member of the Ceratopsidea group, as the dinosaur has an arrangement of large, forward-facing horns that look like hooks and surround the entire edge of the ancient animal’s neck shield. He describes it as a halo of drooping horns that went all the way to the back of the creature’s skull.
The horns siting on their noses are believed to have helped members of the species defend themselves against other prehistoric predators, as well as fight among themselves in order to establish which rank each of them had in their respective herds. The process is believed to be a similar one to what can presently be observed in animals such as antelopes or water buffaloes.
Evans stresses that the study is important because it helps the scientific community understand how exactly skull ornamentation evolved, right from the early stages and on to species that came later.
The study was published earlier this week, on Wednesday (July 8, 2015), in the journal PLOS One.