Friday, May 28, 2010

Horny Dino

Another new species of dinosaur has been unearthed. This one is a dinosaur from Mexico, specifically the Cerro del Pueblo Formation, the basal formation of the Difunta Group in the Parras Basin within the state of Coahuila. Mexico is not very well known dinosaurily speaking. In fact, only 4 dinosaur species from Mexico have been found and described in the scientific literature. The newly described fossil is 72 million years old and has been named Coahuilaceratops magnacuerna (Koh-WHE-lah-SARA-tops mag-NAH-KWER-na). Analysis of the skull and skeletal bones shows the individual to be an adult, and the remains of a juvenile were also found at the same site. An adult C. magnacuerna was 22 feet long, 6-7 feet tall at the shoulder, had a 6 foot long skull, and weighed 4-5 tons.

Did you catch the "ceratops" part of that name? Yep, it is one of the horned dinosaurs we all know and love. In this case the horns are up to 4 feet long, making it the largest set of horns found on a dinosaur to date. The purpose of the huge horns is unclear, but it is hypothesized that they were related to reproductive success (attracting females, fighting males). The skull also had a very thick nasal bone and a small rounded nose horn unlike horns seen in other ceratopsid dinosaurs.

I suggest going back to the Dino Eco story from April. There you will see a good picture and a description of how North America was in the Late Cretaceous Period. At this time, not much of Central America had formed and Mexico was the southern-most point of the continent. Now this area is dry and deserty, but 72 mya it is thought to have been a humid estuary much like the present-day Gulf Coast, evidenced by fossilized snails and clams. C. magnacuerna was found in an area such as this along with duck-bill dinosaur fossils, two other (less well understood) horned dinosaurs, large tyrannosaurs, and small Velociraptor-like dinosuars. So many fossils in one place suggests a massive death event associated with a large storm, such as a hurricane.

As if the wealth of bones was not enough, researchers also discovered the largest assemblage of dinosaur trackways known from Mexico. The large area that is crisscrossed with the tracks of many dinosaur species shows a diverse picture of species in this area.

Here's the story:
http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/05/100528124513.htm
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