Fossils from a new variety of dinosaur, the Mercuriceratops gemini, were discovered recently in the Judith River Formation in Montana and the Dinosaur Park Formation in Alberta, Canada. The dinosaur reportedly lived approximately 77 million years ago during the Late Cretaceous Period. It weighed over 2 tons was approximately 20 feet long.
Dr. Michael Ryan, curator of vertebrate paleontology at The Cleveland Museum of Natural History and lead author of the study just published in the journal Naturwissenschaften, reported that this new dinosaur had a parrot-like beak and horn protrusions above its eyes. It did not eat meat like many other dinosaurs. It ate only plants.
The dinosaur belongs to the group known as ceratopsian, which is the horned class, because it had horns and a swooping bony plate extending up behind its head. It was named “Mercuriceratops” because its bony head ornamentation reminded researchers of the wings on the helmet of the Roman god Mercury. “Gemini” was derived from the dual or twin-like nature of the fossils two original locations.
David Evans, curator of vertebrate paleontology at the Royal Ontario Museum and study co-author said: “The butterfly-shaped frill, or neck shield, of Mercuriceratops is unlike anything we have seen before. Mercuriceratops shows that evolution gave rise to much greater variation in horned dinosaur headgear than we had previously suspected.”
“Mercuriceratops took a unique evolutionary path that shaped the large frill on the back of its skull into protruding wings like the decorative fins on classic 1950s cars. It definitively would have stood out from the herd during the Late Cretaceous,” Ryan added.
Ryan further stated: “Horned dinosaurs in North America used their elaborate skull ornamentation to identify each other and to attract mates — not just for protection from predators. The wing-like protrusions on the sides of its frill may have offered male Mercuriceratops a competitive advantage in attracting mates.”
Mark Loewen, research associate at the Natural History Museum of Utah, and co-author on the report concluded: “This discovery of a previously unknown species in relatively well-studied rocks underscores that we still have many more new species of dinosaurs to left to find,” The team believes that this new dinosaur might just be the beginning of new fossil discoveries yet to come.