Researchers Discover New Plant-Eating Horned Dinosaur Species

Posted on December 9, 2015

Scientists have discovered a new plant-eating horned dinosaur species. The new species is a Triceratops cousin. Hualianceratops wucaiwanensis is described by researchers as being about the size of a spaniel. The fossil discovered had a skull estimated to be 25 centimeters long. It is the second oldest-known member of the horned dinosaurs, some of which are actually hornless.

Hualianceratops was discovered by researchers from George Washington University and the Chinese Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology. Hualianceratops lived approximately 160 million years ago. The fossil was found in the same fossil beds in Xinjiang Province, China as Yinlong downsi, the oldest-known member of the horned dinosaur group (Ceratopsia). The earliest known ceratopsians are all from the Upper Jurassic of China.

Study co-author Catherine Forster, professor of biology in the Geological Sciences Program at GW, says in a statement, "Finding these two species in the same fossil beds reveals there was more diversity there than we previously recognized. It suggests that the ceratopsian dinosaurs already had diversified into at least four lineages by the beginning of the Jurassic Period."

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Fenglu Han, a postdoctoral student in the School of Earth Sciences at China University of Geosciences and lead author of the paper, says in a statement, "Identifying Hualianceratops allows us to expand the beaked family of dinosaurs (Ceratopsia), which includes popular species like Triceratops and Psittacosaurus. Now we know the horned dinosaurs thrived in the early Late Jurassic, and they co-existed with Guanlong, which was an early relative of T. rex and maybe threatened them."

A research paper was published here in the journal, PLoS One.

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