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Zuniceratops

Zuniceratops, meaning “Zuni-horned face,” is a genus of ceratopsian dinosaur from the mid-Turonian age of the Late Cretaceous Period of what is now New Mexico. It was discovered in 1996 by eight-year-old Christopher James Wolfe, son of paleontologist Douglas G. Wolfe, in the Moreno Hill Formation in west-central New Mexico. It is known from a skull and bones of several individuals.

Zuniceratops lived about 10 million years earlier than the more well-known horned Ceratopsidae and provides an important window on their ancestry. It is an example of the evolutionary transition between early ceratopsian dinosaurs and the later, larger ceratopsids that had very large horns and frills. This supports the theory that the lineage of ceratopsian dinosaurs may have originated in North America.

Zuniceratops was roughly 10 to 11 feet long and stood 3 feet tall at the hips. It probably weighed between 200 and 250 pounds. It is the earliest-known ceratopsian to have eyebrow horns and the oldest-known ceratopsian from North America. The eyebrow horns are thought to have grown with age.

The first specimen discovered had single-rooted teeth, which is unusual for ceratopsians. But later finds had double-rooted teeth, leaving researchers to believe that Zuniceratops’ teeth became double-rooted as it aged. This dinosaur was an herbivore like other ceratopsians and was probably also a herd animal.

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Zuniceratops


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