'Hellboy' dinosaur rewrites the prehistory book

  • 04/06/2015

A newly discovered relative of the dinosaur species Triceratops has been given the nickname 'Hellboy' by the palaeontologists who discovered it.

Like its better-known cousin, Regaliceratops – to call it by its proper name – has three horns. But the one on its nose is much larger, and the two behind its eyes considerably shorter.

And its frill is topped with a row of pentagon-shaped plates, not unlike like those of a Stegosaurus.

Regaliceratops bones were first found a decade ago, sticking out of a cliff by a river in Alberta, Canada. It's taken until now for their significance to be fully realised, says Dr Caleb Brown of the Royal Tyrrell Museum of Palaeontology.

"It was not until the specimen was being slowly prepared from the rocks in the laboratory that the full anatomy was uncovered, and the bizarre suite of characters revealed," he says.

"Once it was prepared it was obviously a new species, and an unexpected one at that. Many horned-dinosaur researchers who visited the museum did a double take when they first saw it in the laboratory."

Its name is a reference to the halo of plates that surround the frill, with Dr Brown and his co-author Donald Henderson thinking it looked somewhat like a crown.

But Regaliceratops is more than just an unusual horned dinosaur – it's the first example of "evolutionary convergence" found in horned dinosaurs, where two different groups independently developed similar features.

Horned dinosaurs fall into two categories – chasmosaurines, like Triceratops, which have larger horns over the eyes and a long frill; and centrosaurines, which have a longer nose horn and a shorter frill.

Regaliceratops is a chasmosaurine, but has horns like a centrosaurine, and comes from a time after the centrosaurines became extinct.

It's also the first remains of a horned dinosaur found in that part of the world.

"This discovery also suggests that there are likely more horned dinosaurs out there that we just have not found yet, so we will also be looking for other new species," says Dr Brown.

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source: newshub archive