new species of horned dinosaur has been discovered in New Mexico, called Bisticeratops froeseorum.
The specimen was first discovered in 1975 in the Upper Cretaceous rocks of the San Juan Basin in New Mexico. When researchers came across bone sticking out of the ground, it was attached to an entire skull, nearly complete. After decades of cleaning and research at the New Mexico Museum of Natural History, the skull was named as that of a new species yet unknown to science.
“Further investigation into specimens already in museum collections, combined with the collection and research into new specimens being collected, will allow us to understand these dinosaurs to an even greater degree,” said Dr. Steven Jasinski, a professor at Harrisburg University of Science and Technology, in a statement.
The gentle giants were mainly predated upon by tyrannosaurids including the Tyrannosaurus rex. Evidence backing up this theory can be found on the Bisticeratops‘s skull. Several bite marks were seen across various parts of the skull, including on the upper jaws, cheek, and frill, which due to their placement and size, are thought to have been caused by a tyrannosaurid.
However, it’s unclear if the predator hunted and killed the Bisticeratops, or if it came across the dinosaur’s already dead body.
Their huge horns are thought to have served as both a defense mechanism against attacks, as well as a sexual characteristic used for display and mate choice
Bisticeratops would have been around 16–20 feet long and weighed between 2.5 and 4 tons, and lived around 8 million years before its Triceratops cousins, according to the researchers at Harrisburg University.
The discovery helps to flesh out the family tree of dinosaur evolution, allowing scientists to get a better idea of how the ecosystems worked together millions of years ago.
“While only the skull of Bisticeratopswas recovered, this fossil gives us a lot of information about horned dinosaurs at a time and place that was unique” Jasinski said in the statement. “While other ceratopsids are known from older strata in this region, Bisticeratops potentially shows us the next step in the evolution of these horned dinosaurs in this region and fills in a gap leading to the last ceratopsid dinosaurs in this region before their extinction at the end-Cretaceous mass extinction.”