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jueves, 17 de enero de 2013

'Alien' Horned Dinosaur Discovered

Xenoceratops (meaning "alien horned-face") had massive spikes at the top of its head, two hooks jutting from its forehead, and a ruffled shield around its neck. Click to enlarge this image. Julius Csotonyi 2012




The dinosaur, a distant cousin of Triceratops called Xenoceratops foremostensis, is one of the oldest specimens known to date of the ceratopsid group. The beast's name, Xenoceratops, translates to "alien horned-face," referring to its strange pattern of horns on its head and above its brow, and the rarity of such horned dinosaurs in this part of the fossil record.

In 1958, paleontologist Wann Langston Jr. discovered fragments of three skulls (now known to belong to Xenoceratops) in a rock formation in the badlands of Alberta, Canada. Though the area is now scrubby woodlands filled with hoodoos and sandstone hills, between 77 million and 90 million years ago, the dinosaur's stomping grounds were part of a river system filled with lush vegetation.And threw them into a drawer. Later a group of colleagues found the the bones.
 The team was trying to fill in gaps in the fossil record for the late Cretaceous Period, when some of the most iconic dinosaurs, such as T-rex and Triceratops, evolved.
As they pieced together the skull fragments and analyzed the distinctive ornamentation on the skull, they realized that Xenoceratops was a completely new species.
"The frills and hooks are the calling card of the ceratopsian species," Evans told. We knew instantly that it was a brand new type of horned dinosaur.

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