Plant-eating dinosaur with largest horns unearthed

Washington, May 29 (IANS) A new species of horned dinosaur unearthed in Mexico has larger horns – up to four-feet-long – than any other species.

It has given scientists fresh insights into the ancient history of western North America, says a new study by a team of researchers from the University of Utah (U-U).

‘We know very little about the dinosaurs of Mexico, and this find increases immeasurably our knowledge of the dinosaurs living in Mexico during the Late Cretaceous period,’ said Mark Loewen, paleontologist at the U-U Museum of Natural History, who led the study.

The 72-million-year-old rhino-sized creature – Coahuilaceratops magnacuerna – was a four-five tonnes plant-eater belonging to a group called horned dinosaurs, or ceratopsids.

The name Coahuilaceratops magnacuerna, refers to the Mexican state of Coahuila

where it was found, and to the Greek word ‘ceratops’ meaning ‘horned face’.

The second part of the name, magnacuerna, is a combination of Latin and Spanish meaning ‘great horn’, referring to the huge horns above the eyes of this dinosaur.

The study, partially funded by the National Geographic Society, was conducted by Mark Loewen, Scott Sampson, Eric Lund and Mike Getty, paleontologists at the Utah Museum of Natural History.

For most of the Late Cretaceous period, from 97 million to 65 million years ago, high global sea levels resulted in flooding of the central, low-lying portion of North America.

As a result, a warm, shallow sea extended from the Gulf of Mexico to the Arctic Ocean, splitting the continent into eastern and western landmasses.

Dinosaurs living on the narrow, peninsula-like western landmass – known as Laramidia – occupied only a narrow belt of plains that were sandwiched between the seaway to the east and rising mountains to the west, said an U-U release.

The new species is to be announced in the book ‘New Perspectives on Horned Dinosaurs’ to be released next week by Indiana University Press.