Friday, May 28, 2010

Coahuilaceratops magnacuerna: A Mexican Ceratopsid

A new species of horned dinosaur unearthed in Mexico has larger horns that any other species – up to 4 feet long – and has given scientists fresh insights into the ancient history of western North America, according to a research team led by paleontologists from the Utah Museum of Natural History at the University of Utah.

"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 Mark Loewen, a paleontologist with the Utah Museum of Natural History and lead author of the study.

The 72-million-year-old rhino-sized creature – Coahuilaceratops magnacuerna – was a four- to five-ton plant-eater belonging to a group called horned dinosaurs, or ceratopsids. The name Coahuilaceratops magnacuerna (Koh-WHE-lah-SARA-tops mag-NAH-KWER-na), refers to the Mexican state of Coahuila where it was found, and to the Greek word "ceratops" meaning "horned face." The second part of the name, magnacuerna, is a combination of Latin and Spanish meaning "great horn," in reference to the huge horns above the eyes of this dinosaur.

The study, partially funded by the National Geographic Society, was conducted by Mark Loewen, Scott Sampson, Eric Lund and Mike Getty, paleontologists at the Utah Museum of Natural History. Also involved were Andrew Farke of the Raymond M. Alf Museum in Claremont, Calif.; Martha Aguillón-Martínez, Claudio de Leon and Rubén Rodríguez-de la Rosa from the Museum of the Desert in Saltillo, Mexico; and David Eberth of the Royal Tyrrell Museum of Palaeontology in Alberta, Canada.

The new species is to be announced in the book "New Perspectives on Horned Dinosaurs" to be released next week by Indiana University Press.


The rocks in which Coahuilaceratops was found also contain large fossil deposits of jumbled duck-bill dinosaur skeletons. These sites appear to represent mass death events, perhaps associated with storms such as hurricanes that occur in the region today.

"Sitting near the southern tip of Laramidia, this region may have been hammered by monstrous storms," Sampson said. "If so, such periodic cataclysms likely devastated miles of coastline, killing off large numbers of dinosaurs."

They also state that there are two other ceratopsian skeletons present at the site that they are still working to describe and grasp what they are.

This has been quite a week for ceratopsian news! More shortly!

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