CLEVELAND--()--Michael J. Ryan, Ph.D., a scientist at The Cleveland Museum of Natural History, announces the discovery of a new horned dinosaur, Medusaceratops lokii. Approximately 20 feet long, weighing more than 2 tons, the plant-eating dinosaur lived nearly 78 million years ago during the Late Cretaceous period in what is now Montana. Its identification marks the discovery of a new genus.
“At first we couldn’t figure out what we had”
Ryan, curator of Vertebrate Paleontology at the Museum, published his findings in the book, “New Perspectives on Horned Dinosaurs,” from Indiana University Press.
The dinosaur was discovered in a bonebed on private land located along the Milk River in North Central Montana. Fossilized bones from the site were acquired by Canada Fossils, Ltd., of Calgary, Alberta, in the mid-1990s. The company consulted Ryan and his colleagues to identify material from the site. At first, scientists could not make a positive identification.
Medusaceratops had giant brow bones more than 3 feet long over each eye, and a large, shield-like frill off the back of its skull adorned with large curling hooks. Medusaceratops lokii means “Loki’s horned-faced Medusa,” referring to the thickened, snake-like hooks on the side of the frill. It was named after Loki, the Norse god of mischief, because it caused scientists some confusion.
“At first we couldn’t figure out what we had,” said Ryan. “Some of the material looked as if it came from a form related to Centrosaurus, a centrosaurine noted for having short brow horns. The rest of the pieces had giant brow horns similar to Triceratops, a chasmosaurine. Here we have something almost the size of Triceratops, but 10 million years before it lived.”
“Although the ornamentation on the frill is pretty spectacular, it probably was not used for defense against predators; rather it was more likely prehistoric 'bling' used to attract a mate,” said co-author Anthony Russell, Ph.D., professor of biological sciences at the University of Calgary in Alberta.
The research was conducted when Ryan was a Ph.D. candidate working with Russell at the University of Calgary. Much of the material, including the holotype, is in the collection of the Wyoming Dinosaur Center in Thermopolis, Wyoming, with other material curated at the Royal Tyrrell Museum in Drumheller, Alberta.
View the complete news release and access digital images at www.cmnh.org/site/Medusaceratops.aspx