Scientists have discovered a new species of horned dinosaurs that surprisingly had no horns. The new plant-eating species named Hualianceratops wucaiwanensis was described earlier this week in a study published in the journal PLOS ONE. Members of the ceratopsia family like Triceratops were giant beasts during the Cretaceous Period. Though Hualianceratops is a member of the horned dinosaur family, it lacks horns.
The spaniel-sized dinosaur was a plant-eating creature
Fossils of the new species were discovered in the Gobi Desert in China’s Xinjiang province. Fossil remains revealed that the spaniel-sized dinosaur was a plant-eating modest creature that lived about 160 million years ago in the early Late Jurassic Period. Measuring just one meter, it was much smaller than other members of the group. Scientists were able to reconstruct its body type based on the skull and foot fossils.
Hualianceratops walked on two legs as opposed to four like other ceratopsians. It had a small neck frill, but a large, triangular head. Just like other ceratopsians, Hualianceratops featured a beak for cropping vegetation. The study was led by James Clark, Ronald Weintraub of the George Washington University and Xu Xing of the Chinese Academy of Sciences.
Horned dinosaurs had diversified into four lineages
Discovery of the new species suggests that the Late Jurassic Period had more species diversity than previously thought. Fossils of the new species were recovered from the same fossil beds where another heavily built species called Yinlong downsi was discovered by the same team in 2002. It means horned dinosaurs had already diversified into “at least four lineages by the beginning of the Jurassic Period,” said Catherine Forster, the co-author of the study.
The new fossils indicate that several ceratopsian lineages thrived in the early Late Jurassic Period, and co-existed with Guanlong, which was an early relative of T. rex. Identification of Hualianceratops will allow scientists to expand Ceratopsia, the family of horned dinosaurs. Dinosaurs, except their bird descendants, disappeared from the planet about 66 million years ago due to a combination of asteroid impact and volcanoes.