Tuesday, 1 July 2014

Researchers gain new understanding of Triceratops evolution

2 hours ago by Marcia Malory

(Phys.org) —A study of Triceratops fossils at Hell Creek Formation in Montana has provided insight into the evolution of these dinosaurs. John Scannella of Montana State University and his team examined more than 50 skulls of the two known Triceratops species and, based on morphological differences and placement in the strata, determined that one species transformed into the other. The research appears in theProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Paleontologists have identified two Triceratops species, Triceratops horridus and Triceratops prorsus, based on the length and shape of the horns and the size and structure of the skull. However, they have been unsure of the evolutionary relationship between the two. The two species could have been descendants of an earlier dinosaur, evolving as their ancestor's evolutionary tree split into two branches, in a process known as cladogenesis. If this were the case, both species would have lived at the same time, probably in different locations, where they would have developed adaptations appropriate for their distinct environments. Another possibility is that one species transformed into the other, in a process called anagenesis, with the earlier species dying out before the later one came into existence. Some researchers have suggested that T. horridus and T. prorsus could be different sexes of the same species.

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