Two pint-sized relatives of the famous Triceratops have been discovered in Alberta, giving us our best understanding yet of how these horned dinosaurs expanded into North America. The best part? Neither was much more than a meter or so long.
The Cleveland Museum of Natural History is unveiling these two new species, Unescopceratops koppelhusae and Gryphoceratops morrisoni. They probably didn't actually hang out together like that awesome artist's conception up top suggests, but they were roughly contemporary with each other in the late Cretaceous. Unescopceratops lived about 75 million years ago, while Gryphoceratops dates back 83 million years.
Unescopceratops was tiny, maxing out at about six feet long but often closer to about a meter in length, and it weighed less than 200 pounds. That's positively gigantic to the Gryphoceratops fossil that was discovered. The specimen, which the paleontologists believe to have been an actual adult, can't have been more than two feet long, making it easily the smallest horned dinosaur ever found in North America and one of the very smallest plant-eating dinosaur we have found. In a statement, museum curator and lead author Michael Ryan explains the importance of the find:
"These dinosaurs fill important gaps in the evolutionary history of small-bodied horned dinosaurs that lack the large horns and frills of relatives like Triceratops from North America. Although horned dinosaurs originated in Asia, our analysis suggests that leptoceratopsids radiated to North America and diversified here, since the new species, Gryphoceratops, is the earliest record of the group on this continent."
For more details on the finds, check out the Cleveland Museum of Natural History website.
Artist's conception by Julius T. Csotonyi.