Friday, 20 June 2014

New Horned Dinosaur Discovered With Wing-Shaped Headgear

June 18, 2014

Gerard LeBlond for – Your Universe Online

A new horned dinosaur has been discovered and given the name Mercuriceratops gemini. Fossils collected from Montana, United States and Alberta, Canada reveal the new dinosaur was roughly 20 feet long and weighed more than two tons. It roamed the land around 77 million years ago in the Late Cretaceous Period.

Its name means “Mercury horned-face,” referring to a wing-like feature located on the head resembling the wings on the Roman god Mercury‘s helmet. The “gemini” refers to a similar dinosaur specimen found in north central Montana and at the UNESCO World Heritage Site, Dinosaur Provincial Park, in Alberta, Canada.

“Mercuriceratops took a unique evolutionary path that shaped the large frill on the back of its skull into protruding wings like the decorative fins on classic 1950s cars. It definitively would have stood out from the herd during the Late Cretaceous. Horned dinosaurs in North America used their elaborate skull ornamentation to identify each other and to attract mates—not just for protection from predators. The wing-like protrusions on the sides of its frill may have offered male Mercuriceratops a competitive advantage in attracting mates,” explained lead author Dr. Michael Ryan from The Cleveland Museum of Natural History in a recent statement.

“The butterfly-shaped frill, or neck shield, of Mercuriceratops is unlike anything we have seen before. Mercuriceratops shows that evolution gave rise to much greater variation in horned dinosaur headgear than we had previously suspected,” said co-author Dr. David Evans, from the Royal Ontario Museum.

Skull fragments of the new dinosaur were found in the Judith River Formation of Montana and Dinosaur Park Formation of Alberta. Royal Ontario Museum acquired the specimen from Montana and Susan Owen-Kagen from the University of Alberta collected the Alberta specimen.

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