Longest dinosaur horns discovered in Mexico


Coahuilaceratops magnacuerna

From ABC online:

Newly uncovered dinosaur had longest horns of all

May, 29 2010

US palaeontologists say they have unearthed a new species of dinosaurs standing some 1.8 metres tall and weighing up to 4.5 tonnes, with the longest horns of all.

The 72-million-year-old herbivore, now named Coahuilaceratops magnacuerna, has two large horns above its eyes measuring up to 1.22 metres long – the largest of any other species, providing fresh insight into the history of western North America.

Scientists uncovered fossils belonging to both an adult and a juvenile of the rhino-sized tubby creature at the Cerro del Pueblo Formation in Coahuila, Mexico.

It measured about 6.7 metres long as an adult.

“We know very little about the dinosaurs of Mexico, and this find increases immeasurably our knowledge of the dinosaurs living in Mexico during the Late Cretaceous,” said the study’s lead author Mark Loewen, a palaeontologist with the Utah Museum of Natural History.

His team is to release a book next week detailing the find, which took place during expeditions in 2002 and 2003 in the Coahuila desert. The study was funded by the National Geographic Society and the University of Utah.

When dinosaurs lived in this corner of Mexico, it was a lush, humid estuary where ocean water mixed with fresh water from rivers, similar to the US Gulf Coast today.

Many dinosaur bones unearthed in the area are covered with fossilised snails and marine clams, indicating that the creatures lived close to the seashore.

The rocks in which the palaeontologists found Coahuilaceratops contained large fossil deposits of jumbled duck-bill dinosaur skeletons.

According to the scientists, the dinosaurs likely died en masse in the area due to storms similar to present-day hurricanes.

During most of the Late Cretaceous Period, 97 to 65 million years ago, high global sea levels led to flooding of the central, low-lying portion of North America.

Ultimately, a warm, shallow sea emerged, stretching from the Gulf of Mexico to the Arctic Ocean and splitting the continent into eastern and western landmasses.

“We are confident that Mexican dinosaurs will be a critical element in unravelling the ancient mystery of this island continent,” said Scott Sampson of the Utah Museum of Natural History.

See also here.

From ScienceDaily:

(June 1, 2010) — A team of paleontologists, including a University of Pennsylvania doctoral candidate, has described a new species of dinosaur based upon an incomplete skeleton found in western New Mexico. The new species, Jeyawati rugoculus, comes from rocks that preserve a swampy forest ecosystem that thrived near the shore of a vast inland sea 91 million years ago.

The dinosaur, whose name translates to mean “grinding-mouth, wrinkle-eye,” was most likely an herbivore that ate the ferns and conifer trees found as fossils in the same rock layer. A basal hadrosauroid, the find included partial skull bones, several vertebrae and fragments of the ribs.

4 thoughts on “Longest dinosaur horns discovered in Mexico

  1. Canadian scientists discover new horned dinosaur

    By Randy Boswell, Canwest News Service May 28, 2010

    Two Canadian scientists have announced the discovery of a new species of horned dinosaur — a seven-metre-long, magnificently adorned predecessor of the famed Triceratops — that gobbled plants near the present-day Montana-Alberta border nearly 80 million years ago.

    The stunning new species has been identified as Medusaceraptops lokii, a nod to two freakish mythological beings that inspired Michael Ryan — the dinosaur’s Ottawa-born co-discoverer — when it came time to assign a name to the creature.

    “Medusa” — from the mythic Greek monster whose serpentine hairdo could turn her victims into stone — describes the distinctive “snakelike hooks” found on the ornamental frill at the back of the dinosaur’s skull.

    And “Loki” pays homage to the Norse god of mischief, a reference to how tricky it was for Ryan and his research partner — University of Calgary biologist Anthony Russell — to nail down the identity of the big-horned reptile.

    “One of the things I have a problem with as a paleontologist is how some of my colleagues come up with terribly unpronounceable names,” said Ryan, a Carleton University graduate who is now an adjunct professor there as well as the head of vertebrate paleontology at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History.

    “I like to give my dinosaurs names that roll off the tongue and actually evoke an image,” he told Canwest News Service on Friday.

    Mission accomplished.

    Thanks to Ryan’s childhood memories of the 1981 fantasy-film classic Clash of the Titans (which featured a memorable animated Medusa) and his nerdy appetite for Marvel comics (which portray Loki as a terrifying, horned villain), the name of the world’s newest dinosaur is an unforgettably vivid blend of classic scientific nomenclature and pop-culture kitsch.

    “I thought it would be a perfectly good, catchy name,” says Ryan, who as a high school student in the 1980s “basically lived downtown in the dinosaur hall” of the Canadian Museum of Nature, the newly-renovated Ottawa science centre where he is now a research associate.

    The new dinosaur specimen was found about 15 years ago by Calgary-based Canada Fossils Inc., a commercial collector of ancient animal remains that had been contracted to analyze a rocky outcrop on a farm along the Milk River just south of the Alberta-Montana border.

    It took years for Ryan to differentiate Medusaceratops from a similar species he’d recently found a short distance to the north — Albertaceratops — and other members of their deceptively fierce-looking family of plant-eaters.

    “At first we couldn’t figure out what we had,” Ryan said in a summary of the discovery by the Cleveland museum. “That’s one of the problems with bonebeds — even though you can collect a large amount of material, much of it is broken and all of it is disarticulated, so the story is rarely clear cut.”

    Significantly, Medusaceratops was found to represent an early branch of dinosaurs that later gave rise to Triceratops, but belonged to a different branch of beasts than Albertaceratops.

    The discovery is detailed in a book Ryan is publishing this year about all of the world’s horned dinosaurs.

    While Medusaceratops’ “pretty spectacular” frill looks like a shield, said Russell, “it probably was not used for defence against predators. Rather, it was more likely prehistoric ‘bling’ used to attract a mate.”

    The new species’ early niche in Cretaceous Canada has raised new questions about dinosaur evolution to be pursued by Ryan and other scientists.

    He described the two-ton animal as “almost the size of Triceratops, but 10 million years before it lived. Tyrannosaurus Rex was not around yet, so what was Medusaceratops squaring off against? That’s one of the things we’re now looking for in Alberta.”

    © Copyright (c) Canwest News Service

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