Scientists have revealed a new species of horned dinosaur almost 100 years after the initial finding of the fossil.
The animal, named Spinops sternbergorum, lived approximately 76 million years ago in southern Alberta, Canada. Spinops was a plant-eater that weighed around two tons when alive, a smaller cousin of Triceratops.
A single large horn projected from the top of the nose, and a bony neck frill sported at least two long, backward-projecting spikes as well as two forward-curving hooks. These unique structures distinguish Spinops from related horned dinosaurs.
“I was amazed to learn the story behind these specimens, and how they went unstudied for so long,” said Andrew Farke, Augustyn Family Curator of Paleontology at the Raymond M. Alf Museum of Paleontology, and lead author on the study.
“This animal is an important addition to our understanding of horned dinosaur diversity and evolution.”
Parts of the skulls of at least two Spinops were discovered in 1916 by Charles H. and Levi Sternberg, a father-and-son fossil collecting team.
The Sternbergs recognised that their find represented a new species and sent the fossils to The Natural History Museum (London). However, the fossils were deemed too scrappy for exhibit, and consequently were shelved for decades. It wasn’t until paleontologists recognized the importance of the fossil that the bones were finally cleaned for study.
“This study highlights the importance of museum collections for understanding the history of our planet.”
“My colleagues and I were pleasantly surprised to find these fossils on the museum shelf, and even more astonished when we determined that they were a previously unknown species of dinosaur,” Farke added.
This finding allows a more accurate reconstruction of evolutionary relationships, and is being tested with additional study.