Scientists name two new species of horned dinosaur

Mar 12, 2012
An illustration of Unescoceratops koppelhusae, a plant-eating dinosaur from the Late Cretaceous period that lived approximately 75 million years ago. © Julius T. Csotonyi

Two new horned dinosaurs have been named based on fossils collected from Alberta, Canada. The new species, Unescopceratops koppelhusae and Gryphoceratops morrisoni, are from the Leptoceratopsidae family of horned dinosaurs. The herbivores lived during the Late Cretaceous period between 75 to 83 million years ago. The specimens are described in research published in the Jan. 24, 2012, online issue of the journal Cretaceous Research.

"These dinosaurs fill important gaps in the of small-bodied that lack the large horns and frills of relatives like Triceratops from North America," said Michael Ryan, Ph.D., curator of at The Cleveland Museum of Natural History, lead author on the research. "Although horned dinosaurs originated in Asia, our analysis suggests that leptoceratopsids radiated to North America and diversified here, since the new species, Gryphoceratops, is the earliest record of the group on this continent."

An illustration of Gryphoceratops morrisoni, a plant-eating dinosaur from the Late Cretaceous period that lived approximately 83 million years ago. © Julius T. Csotonyi

Unescoceratops koppelhusae lived approximately 75 million years ago. It measured about one to two meters (6.5 feet) in length and weighed less than 91 kilograms (200 pounds). It had a short frill extending from behind its head but did not have ornamentation on its skull. It had a parrot-like beak. Its teeth were lower and rounder than those of any other leptoceratopsid. In addition, its hatchet-shaped jaw had a distinct portion of bone that projected below the jaw like a small chin.

The lower left jaw fragment of Unescoceratops was discovered in 1995 in Dinosaur Provincial Park, a United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) by Philip Currie, Ph.D., now of the University of Alberta. Originally described in 1998 by Ryan and Currie, the dinosaur was referred to as Leptoceratops. Subsequent research by Ryan and David Evans, Ph.D., of the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto, Canada, determined the specimen was a new genus and species. The genus is named to honor the designation for the locality where the specimen was found and from the Greek "ceratops," which means "horned face." The species is named for Eva Koppelhus, Ph.D., a palynologist at the University of Alberta and wife of Currie.

Gryphoceratops morrisoni lived about 83 million years ago. It had a shorter and deeper jaw shape than any other leptoceratopsid. Researchers believe the individual was a full-grown adult. Based on unique characters of the jaw and its size, the researchers believe that Gryphoceratops was an adult that did not exceed one-half meter in length. This means it is the smallest adult-sized horned dinosaur in North America and one of the smallest adult-sized plant-eating dinosaurs known.

Lower right jaw fragments of Gryphoceratops were discovered in southern Alberta in 1950 by Levi Sternberg while he worked for the Royal Ontario Museum. The genus is named for "Gryphon," a mythological Greek figure with the body of a lion and the head of an eagle, which is a reference to the animal's beaked face. The species name honors Ian Morrison, a Royal Ontario Museum technician.

Second author Evans, associate curator of vertebrate palaeontology at the Royal Ontario Museum and assistant professor at the University of Toronto, said, "Small-bodied dinosaurs are typically poorly represented in the fossil record, which is why fragmentary remains like these new leptoceratopsids can make a big contribution to our understanding of dinosaur ecology and evolution."

Explore further: Short-necked Triassic marine reptile discovered in China

Provided by Cleveland Museum of Natural History

4.8 /5 (5 votes)

Related Stories

Scientists announce new horned dinosaur

May 28, 2010

Michael J. Ryan, Ph.D., a scientist at The Cleveland Museum of Natural History, has announced the discovery of a new horned dinosaur, Medusaceratops lokii. Approximately 20 feet long and weighing more than 2 ...

Dino-mite discovery

Nov 24, 2005

A new species of horned dinosaur with distinctive spikes and a flashy shield around its head has been unveiled in a scholarly journal. Centrosaurus brinkmani was a docile vegetarian about the size of two-tonne tru ...

Newly discovered dinosaur likely father of Triceratops

Jan 31, 2011

Triceratops and Torosaurus have long been considered the kings of the horned dinosaurs. But a new discovery traces the giants' family tree further back in time, when a newly discovered species appears to ha ...

Mini Dinosaurs Prowled North America (w/Video)

Mar 16, 2009

Massive predators like Albertosaurus and Tyrannosaurus rex may have been at the top of the food chain, but they were not the only meat-eating dinosaurs to roam North America, according to Canadian researchers w ...

Recommended for you

Short-necked Triassic marine reptile discovered in China

14 hours ago

A new species of short-necked marine reptile from the Triassic period has been discovered in China, according to a study published December 17, 2014 in the open-access journal PLOS ONE by Xiao-hong Chen f ...

Gothic cathedrals blend iron and stone

21 hours ago

Using radiocarbon dating on metal found in Gothic cathedrals, an interdisciplinary team has shown, for the first time through absolute dating, that iron was used to reinforce stone from the construction phase. ...

Research shows Jaws didn't kill his cousin

Dec 16, 2014

New research suggests our jawed ancestors weren't responsible for the demise of their jawless cousins as had been assumed. Instead Dr Robert Sansom from The University of Manchester believes rising sea levels ...

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

kaasinees
1 / 5 (2) Mar 12, 2012
What are the odds of them being the same species but different gender?
I remember archaeologists saying that a smaller dinosaur could be the same species as the bigger dinosaur(I thought it was the t.rex).

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.