Scientists Discover One Of The Oldest Horned Dinosaurs The "new" dinosaur — named Wendiceratops pinhornensis — lived about 79 million years ago and helps scientists understand the early evolution of the family that includes Triceratops.
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Scientists Discover One Of The Oldest Horned Dinosaurs

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Scientists Discover One Of The Oldest Horned Dinosaurs

Scientists Discover One Of The Oldest Horned Dinosaurs

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ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

Among the most easily recognizable dinosaurs is Triceratops, the dinosaur with the three-horned face. But Triceratops is not the only horned dinosaur or even the most interesting one. NPR's Nell Greenfieldboyce reports that scientists have just found a dinosaur with bony head ornaments that are far more bizarre.

NELL GREENFIELDBOYCE, BYLINE: Triceratops was discovered over a century ago and has long reigned as the quintessential horned dinosaur.

DAVID EVANS: Yeah. I remember when I was a kid, Triceratops certainly loomed large in our household.

GREENFIELDBOYCE: That's paleontologist David Evans of the Royal Ontario Museum. He says Triceratops was his sister's favorite. He preferred T. rex.

EVANS: So we kind of had the classic argument about which one was better when I was maybe 5 years old.

GREENFIELDBOYCE: These days, he works with Michael Ryan of the Cleveland Museum of Natural History. Together, these guys have just announced the discovery of a new horned dinosaur. They named it Wendiceratops after the fossil hunter who found it in Canada, Wendy Sloboda. Wendiceratops lived about 79 million years ago, so it's one of the oldest-known horned dinosaurs.

EVANS: It was about 20 feet long and weighed between one and two tons. That's about the size of a big hippo.

GREENFIELDBOYCE: Evans says its distinctive feature is a highly decorated frill around its neck.

EVANS: The frill is sort of ornamented by a pretty spectacular wave of gnarly hooks that project forward.

GREENFIELDBOYCE: They think it had a big horn above each eye and a third one over its nose. It's the earliest occurrence of a prominent nose horn.

EVANS: So it's a significant discovery in that it tells us a lot of new information about the early evolution of skull ornamentation - the hooks and horns - that characterize this iconic group of dinosaurs.

GREENFIELDBOYCE: A few decades ago, scientists knew of only 25 to 30 horned dinosaurs. Ryan says now, there's more than 60, and new ones keep turning up all the time. And what were these weird horns and skull decorations for? He says it likely had to do with impressing the ladies.

MICHAEL RYAN: The horned dinosaur with the biggest horn may have been able to outcompete its rivals to control the biggest harem for breeding purposes.

GREENFIELDBOYCE: Still, horns might have also been used for defense. After all, Triceratops lived in the time of the ravenous T. rex.

RYAN: I'm sure that there was those definitive battles between T. rex and Triceratops.

GREENFIELDBOYCE: The kind kids still play out with plastic toys today. If any toy maker out there wants to make a Wendiceratops, the researchers describe it in the journal PLOS ONE. Nell Greenfieldboyce, NPR News.

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