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Horned dinosaur discovery sheds light on nose horn evolution in Triceratops family

Fossils reveal hook-like ornaments on frill and early nose horn evolution

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IMAGE: This is a life reconstruction of Wendiceratops pinhornensis gen. et sp. nov. view more

Credit: Danielle Dufault

Scientists have discovered Wendiceratops pinhornensis, a new species of horned dinosaur based on fossils collected from a bone bed in southern Alberta, Canada, according to a study published July 8, 2015 in the open-access journal PLOS ONE by co-authors David Evans from the Royal Ontario Museum and Michael Ryan from Cleveland Museum of Natural History.

The new dinosaur, named Wendiceratops pinhornensis, is described from over 200 bones representing the remains of at least four individuals, three adults and one juvenile, collected from a bonebed in southern Alberta, Canada. Wendiceratops pinhornensis was approximately 20 feet long and weighed more than a ton. It lived about 79 million years ago, making it one of the oldest known members of the family of large-bodied horned dinosaurs that includes the famous Triceratops, the Ceratopsidae.

A series of forward-curling hook-like horns adorn the margin of the wide, shield-like frill that projects from the back of the Wendiceratop skull, considered elaborate by the authors for an early member of the horned dinosaur family. The nasal bone, although represented by fragmentary specimens, likely supported a prominent, upright nasal horn. This may represent the earliest documented occurrence of a tall nose horn in Ceratopsia, possibly shedding light on nose horn evolution in the horned dinosaur family. The addition of Wendiceratops adds to a growing body of research which suggests high diversity of ceratopsids likely associated with a rapid evolutionary radiation in the group.

"Wendiceratops helps us understand the early evolution of skull ornamentation in an iconic group of dinosaurs characterized by their horned faces." said co-author Dr. David Evans. "The wide frill of Wendiceratops is ringed by numerous curled horns, the nose had a large, upright horn, and it's likely there were horns over the eyes too. The number of gnarly frill projections and horns makes it one of the most striking horned dinosaurs ever found."

The name Wendiceratops means "Wendy's horned-face", and celebrates renowned Alberta fossil hunter Wendy Sloboda, who discovered the site in 2010.

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Adapted by PLOS ONE from release provided by the author

In your coverage please use this URL to provide access to the freely available paper: http://dx.plos.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0130007

Citation: Evans DC, Ryan MJ (2015) Cranial Anatomy of Wendiceratops pinhornensis gen. et sp. nov., a Centrosaurine Ceratopsid (Dinosauria: Ornithischia) from the Oldman Formation (Campanian), Alberta, Canada, and the Evolution of Ceratopsid Nasal Ornamentation. PLOS ONE 10(7): e0130007. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0130007

Funding: This research was supported by a Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (http://www.nserc-crsng.gc.ca/index_eng.asp) Discovery Grant to DCE (NSERC Grant File Number: RGPIN 355845, http://www.nserc-crsng.gc.ca/ase-oro/Details-Detailles_eng.asp?id=527922), Royal Ontario Museum Department of Natural History Fieldwork Grants to DCE, and research grants from the Dinosaur Research Institute to DCE and MJR. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.

Competing Interests: The authors have declared that no competing interests exist.

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