According to a report from the Cleveland Museum of Natural History, paleontologists have named a new species of horned dinosaur based on fossils collected from Montana, United States and Alberta, Canada. Mercuriceratops gemini was approximately 20-feet long and weighed more than two tons. The animal lived some 77 million years ago, during the Late Cretaceous Period.
The research findings describing the new species appear online in the latest issue of the journal Naturwissenschaften.
Mercuriceratops means “Mercury horned-face,” referring to the wing-like adornment on its head that resembles the wings on the helmet of the Roman god, Mercury. The name “gemini” refers to the nearly identical twin specimens found in north central Montana and the UNESCO World Heritage Site, Dinosaur Provincial Park, in Alberta, Canada. Mercuriceratops had a parrot-like beak and most likely had two long brow horns above its eyes. It was a herbivore.
“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,” said lead author Dr. Michael Ryan, curator of vertebrate paleontology at The Cleveland Museum of Natural History. “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.”
The new dinosaur is the result of an investigation into skull fragments from two individuals collected from the Judith River Formation of Montana and the Dinosaur Park Formation of Alberta.
According to Alberta Parks, the conditions were perfect for the preservation of dinosaurs’ bones as fossils in the Dinosaur Park Formation. After a century of excavations, more than 150 complete dinosaur skeletons have been discovered. Disorganized concentrations of bones, called “bone beds,” have also been discovered. More than forty dinosaur species have been found here, joining a list of another 450 fossil organisms.
Photo credit: Danielle Dufault