New dinosaur breed had impressive headgear to 'attract the ladies'
Called 'alien horned-face,' creature was the sixe of a rhinoceros and weighed two tons
A new breed of dinosaur, a distant cousin of Triceratops called Xenoceratops foremostensis has been discovered by paleontologists in Canada. One of the oldest specimens known to date of the ceratopsid group, the Xenoceratops translates to "alien horned-face," referring to its odd pattern of horns on its head and above its brow. Scientists say he must have been a hit with the lady dinosaurs with his elaborate headdress!
Scientists estimate the unusual beast weighed about two tons and was 20-feet long, the size of an average rhinoceros.
"It seems to have the general types of ornamentation that we see taken to even greater extremes in later ceratopsids," paleontologist David Evans with the Royal Ontario Museum says. "That suggests the elaborate headgear evolved earlier."
The beginning of this strange discovery began way back in 1958. Paleontologist Wann Langston Jr. had discovered fragments of three skulls in a rock formation in the badlands of Alberta, Canada. While this area today remains scrubby and desolate, between 77 million and 90 million years ago when dinosaurs roamed the earth, it was part of a river system filled with lush vegetation.
Langston had his hands filled with other discoveries, so he tossed the fossil fragments into a drawer at the Canadian Museum of Nature in Ottawa and forgot about them.
Evans and his colleagues in 2003 learned of the fragments, trying to fill in gaps in the fossil record for the late Cretaceous Period, when some of the most iconic dinosaurs, such as Tyrannosaurus Rex and Triceratops, evolved.
Piecing together the skull fragments and analyzing the distinctive ornamentation on the skull, the scientists realized that Xenoceratops was a completely new species.
"The frills and hooks are the calling card of the ceratopsian species," Evans says. "We knew instantly that it was a brand new type of horned dinosaur."
Evans says that the Xenoceratops used its birdlike beak to graze on the cattails, ferns and flowers in primeval river deltas.
The Xenoceratops most striking figure is its spiky head. Two hooks jutting from its forehead, two massive spikes rest at the top of its head and a frilly shield adorns its neck.
According to Andrew Farke, a paleontologist at the Raymond M. Alf Museum of Paleontology in Claremont, California, the new species helps fill in a gap in the evolutionary record.
"The bits of anatomy that are preserved on this species give us a lot of great information about how horned dinosaurs as a group evolved," Farke says.
© 2012, Catholic Online. Distributed by NEWS CONSORTIUM.
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