The latest discovery indicates that the ceratopsians group of dinosaurs was more diverse than originally thought.
Researchers have discovered a new plant-eating species of dinosaur in China and it is closely related to the oldest known ‘horned dinosaurs’, Yinlong downsi.
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New dinosaur species, called Hualianceratops, was heavily built and sturdy but just 3 feet tall, almost the same size of a gun dog known as Spaniel. The group of researchers, who have identified the latest dinosaur species, also discovered the Yinlong horned dinosaur back in 2002. Fossil remains of both dinosaur species were unearthed from the same place as well.
All they manage to dig out was a partial skull and foot of the dinosaur but these evidences were sufficient enough to compare the new species with other ceratopsians which are easily recognizable by the shape of their skull. All ceratopsians have a unique bone above the jaw which is not seen in any other animal. Although, both dinosaurs are the members of the horned dinosaur family, surprisingly neither had horns
“Finding these two species in the same fossil beds reveals there was more diversity there than we previously recognized,” said co-author Catherine Forster from George Washington University. “It suggests that caretopsian dinosaurs already had diversified into at least four lineages by the beginning of the Jurassic Period.”
The latest discovery will provide paleontologists a chance to determine exactly how ceratopsians were evolved and how many lineages of them were present at the same time. Hualianceratops lived around 160 million years ago early in the late Jurassic period and were rich in diversity.
“Identifying Hualianceratops allows us to expand the beaked family of dinosaurs (Ceratopsia) which includes popular species like Triceratops and Psittacosaurus,” said Fenglu Han, lead author of the study. “Now we know the horned dinosaurs thrived in the early late Jurassic and they co-existed with Guanlong, which was an early relative of T. rex and may be threatened them.”
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The study was published in PLOS ONE.