Alan McStravick for redOrbit.com – Your Universe Online
File this one under better late than never. Canadian scientists have identified a new species of dinosaur from fossils that were originally collected in 1958.
The horned herbivorous dinosaur, originally found outside of Alberta, Canada has received his new Latin name, Xenoceratops foremostensis. This new species was approximately 20 feet long and weighed in at more than 2 tons. With this find, X. foremostensis is now the oldest known large-bodied horned dinosaur from Canada.
“Starting 80 million years ago, the large-bodied horned dinosaurs in North America underwent an evolutionary explosion,” said lead author Dr. Michael Ryan, curator of vertebrate paleontology at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History. “Xenoceratops shows us that even the geologically oldest ceratopsids had massive spikes on their head shields and that their cranial ornamentation would only become more elaborate as new species evolved.”
The derivation of the name Xeno comes from the Greek for alien and Ceratops, meaning horned-face. This was selected primarily due to the strange pattern of horns on its head and also because of the scarcity of horned dinosaur fossils dated from this time of the fossil record. It´s second name is in honor of the small village it was originally found outside of, the Village of Foremost.
X. foremostensis was definitely an imposing looking creature. With a parrot-like beak and two long brow horns above its eyes, most creatures probably thought twice before approaching. On the back of its skull was a large frill that featured two huge spikes.
“Xenoceratops provides new information on the early evolution of ceratopsids, the group of large-bodied horned dinosaurs that includes Triceratops,” said co-author Dr. David Evans of the Royal Ontario Museum and University of Toronto. “The early fossil record of ceratopsids remains scant, and this discovery highlights just how much more there is to learn about the origin of this diverse group.”
Though X. foremostensis was originally found by Dr. Wann Langston Jr. in the 1950´s, it wasn´t until little more than a decade ago that Ryan and Evans came across the undescribed material that was being housed in the Canadian Museum of Nature in Ottawa, Canada. They recognized immediately that what they had found was a new type of horned dinosaur. Aiding in their research, Ryan found a 50-year old plaster field jacket at the Canadian Museum of Nature that contained several more skull bones from the same fossil locality. He sent them off to be prepared in his lab at the Royal Ontario Museum.
Ryan and Evans, as part of their Southern Alberta Dinosaur project, which was originally conceived to fill in the gaps in our knowledge of Late Cretaceous dinosaurs and study their evolution, have made other new finds, as well. X. foremostensis is just the latest feather in their cap. Geographically, they have kept the focus of their research, using paleontological methods, to some of the oldest dinosaur-bearing rocks in Alberta. This region has, by comparison to the famous badlands of Dinosaur Provincial Park or Drumheller, been one that has received far less attention and, therefore, little is known about it.
“This discovery of a previously unknown species also drives home the importance of having access to scientific collections,” says co-author Kieran Shepherd, curator of paleobiology for the Canadian Museum of Nature, which holds the specimen. “The collections are an untapped source of new material for study, and offer the potential for many new discoveries.”
In addition to Ryan and Evans, the research team also included Kieran Shepherd, curator of paleobiology for the Canadian Museum of Nature.
The researchers published their research in the October 2012 issue of the Canadian Journal of Earth Sciences.