A new species of dinosaur with a parrot-like beak and winged
headgear has been identified by palaeontologists from fossil records in
the US and Canada.
The creature, named Mercuriceratops gemini, was six metres long
and weighed more than 2,000kg. It lived 77 million years ago during
the late Cretaceous period and ate a strictly vegetarian diet.
Its name derives from the intriguing shape of the plates mounted
on its head. A creative interpretation of their wing-like shape is
that they resemble those on the helmet of the Roman god Mercury. Two near-identical specimens of the creature
were uncovered in Montana in the US and in Alberta in Canada,
giving it its second name — gemini.
“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,” said Michael
Ryan, curator of vertebrate palaeontology at The Cleveland Museum
of Natural History and the lead author of the paper describing the
“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.”
“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,” said paper co-author Mark
Loewen, research associate at the Natural History Museum of
Their work, which is part of the Southern Alberta Dinosaur
Project, was published in Naturwissenschaften.