A team of paleontologists announces that they have identified a new species of horned dinosaur evolving in present-day New Mexico (United States) 82 million years ago. It is also one of the oldest known ceratopsid species. Details of the study are published in the PalZ review.
Ceratopsidae form a family of herbivorous dinosaurs including, for example, the famous Triceratops. These animals were characterized by elaborate beaks, horns and frills.
Recently, paleontologists described a new species, the remains of which were discovered in 1996 in the Menefee Formation in northwestern New Mexico. These fossils were briefly described at the time, but knowledge gathered over the past two decades has shed new light on this specimen.
Baptized Menefeeceratops sealeyi, this dinosaur fits into the centrosaurine subfamily. The latter presented very well developed nasal horns and almost rectangular shaped collars surrounded by thorns.
Physically, Menefeeceratops was a relatively small member of this group, measuring about four meters long. Representatives of the genus Triceratops, which will arrive later, could reach the ten meters long.
One of the oldest known ceratopsids
More interesting, Menefeeceratops sealeyi would have evolved there about 82 million years old, making it the oldest known member of centrosaurines. Analyzed by members of the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and the University of Pennsylvania, its remains therefore offer a clearer picture of the evolutionary path of this group of dinosaurs before their extinction at the end of the Cretaceous Period.
At the time, this dinosaur was living in a thriving ecosystem. He shared his environment with animals such as the Invictarx, a genus of herbivorous nodosaurid dinosaurs, and the Dynamoterror, a genus of tyrannosaurs up to nine meters in length. Hadrosaurids and dromaeosaurids were also present.
Finally, by analyzing its remains (parts of the skull, a forearm, hind limbs, pelvis, vertebrae and ribs), the researchers also isolated the signs of a potential pathology on at least one of the vertebrae near the base of its spine. This could have been the result of an injury or minor illness, according to the study.
Paleontology enthusiasts have also been able to appreciate other discoveries announced in recent months. These include that of a new duck-billed dinosaur isolated in Japan, that of a new giant in Chile, of a small dinosaur the size of a cat recognized by its footprint or of a new large predator in Argentina. . In March, researchers even came across the remains of a dinosaur found sitting on an egg nest.