World's Largest Horned Dinosaur Found

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Nov. 28, 2007 -- Canadian paleontologists have unearthed the world's largest known horned dinosaur with the discovery of an early relative of Triceratops that measured around 30 feet in length, or the size of an enormous SUV.

The previous record-holder was Pentaceratops sternbergi, which hailed from what is now New Mexico.

The new dinosaur, Eotriceratops ("early Triceratops") xerinsularis, is the earliest known confirmed relative of the rhino-like Triceratops, which was slightly smaller in size, with the largest specimens measuring just over 29 feet in length.

"The skull of Eotriceratops alone was as big as a car," said David Eberth, who co-authored a paper on the find in a recent Canadian Journal of Earth Sciences.

Eberth, a senior scientist at Alberta's Royal Tyrrell Museum, collaborated with other Royal Tyrrell scientists and researchers from the Canadian Museum of Nature to unearth the horned beast, which lived 68 million years ago.

With much heaving and hauling, they excavated its bones at Horseshoe Canyon Formation in Dry Island Buffalo Jump Provincial Park in central Alberta.

Eberth told Discovery News that another paleontologist had spotted the skeleton in 1910, but he decided not to dig it up.

"At the site the skeleton looked like road kill," Eberth said. "Really, it looked like it had been run over by a Cretaceous Hummer."

After extensive analysis and bone assembly, the Canadian team now knows what the new dino looked like when it was alive.

Like Triceratops, it possessed two orbital bone horns that jutted out above its eyes. Each would have been 5 feet long. A smaller, pyramid-shaped, horn stuck out from its nose.

The beast also had what Eberth described as "a standard issue Triceratops frill" at the back of its head. The Triceratops frill, however, had little toothy spikes that poked out on top. These spikes were "more flattened and spindle-like" in Eotriceratops.

The new dino preceded its more famous relative by a million years. Until its discovery, not much was known about dinosaurs from Alberta and North America 69 to 67 million years ago, so it fills an important gap. Just a few million years later, all dinosaurs went extinct.

Before the find, scientists theorized that dinosaurs gradually became bigger over time. Now that theory is under question, since size changes -- probably induced by environmental and climactic conditions -- didn't always follow distinct patterns.

Eric Lund, a University of Utah paleontologist, thinks the new dino is "really cool."

Lund told Discovery News, "If this specimen is truly an early relative of Triceratops, it gives us insight into how this group of animals evolved over time."

He agreed that it "fills an information gap" between early and late chasmosaurines, an animal group that included both long and short frilled species. Members of this group typically were plant eaters that probably used their frills for mating and territorial displays.

Eotriceratops xerinsularis is now on display for human onlookers in the Royal Tyrrell Museum's new gallery, "Ceratopsians: the Horned Herbivores."



EDIT: Forgot link, http://dsc.discovery.com/news/2007/11/28/triceratops-dinosaur.html