Meet Eotriceratops – a Possible Ancestor of Triceratops

New Horned Dinosaur Discovered in Alberta

A new type of horned dinosaur, a possible ancestor of the famous three-horned Triceratops has just gone on display at the Royal Tyrrell museum in Alberta.

Although Alberta, Canada is a real hotbed for new dinosaurs, especially Ceratopsians with many new genera being discovered in the area such as Albertaceratops*, this new find is especially important has it comes from strata not normally associated with many well preserved dinosaur fossils.

To read article on the discovery of Albertaceratops please click on the link below:

*Albertaceratops: Meet an ancestor of Triceratops – Albertaceratops

This specimen was found in a remote canyon in Dry Island Buffalo Jump Provincial Park in Central Alberta, in a rock horizon that represents sediments deposited around 68 million years ago (Late Cretaceous – Maastrichtian faunal stage).  Very few dinosaurs are known from this particular period, so the find is potentially very important in helping to trace the lineage of other dinosaurs that came later such as Triceratops.

According to David Eberth, a senior researcher at the Royal Tyrrell museum, it was lucky that the specimen was noticed as the joint expedition from the Tyrrell and Ottawa’s Canadian Museum of Nature could easily have passed this very poorly preserved fossil by as it lay partially exposed in the canyon wall.  However, as dinosaurs were rarely found in rocks of this age, the team persisted and their work was rewarded when they were able to recover most of the huge skull of this horned dinosaur.

It took the scientists a month to complete the initial excavation and then a further 18 months of laboratory work before the skull was able to go on display.  The work was well worth it as Eotriceratops (E. xerinsularis to give this animal its full name); represents a new genus of horned dinosaur, more primitive than Triceratops, with three horns, one small nose horn and two brow horns, each exceeding 1 metre in length.

The skull is also very large, at approaching 3 metres in length.  This is longer than any Triceratops skull found in Canada.  The skull is the size of a Mini Cooper.

Eotriceratops – What a big Head you Have?

Picture Credit: Royal Tyrrell Museum

The scale of this Ceratopsian can be seen when compared to the researcher working on the large orbit (eye area) of this horned dinosaur.

It is remarkable how well the skull material has been reconstructed, as when it was first extracted from the shale deposits where it was embedded it was in about 50 pieces.  Indeed, one of the palaeontologists quipped that when it was first excavated the skull resembled “Cretaceous roadkill”.

We still have a lot to learn about the evolution of the Ceratopsians.  The greatest variety of horned dinosaurs seems to be found in North America, although they may well have evolved in Asia.  Triceratops is often classified as the largest member of the “long-frilled Ceratopsians”; although it could hardly be described as typical of this group.  Perhaps this new discovery will help shed further light on the evolution of Triceratops.  The name Eotriceratops means “dawn Triceratops”.

2 Responses to “Meet Eotriceratops – a Possible Ancestor of Triceratops”

  1. Zachi Evenor says:

    You got confused in the last paragraph. Triceratops had long brow horns (90-100 cm long each), short nose horn and a relatively short frill for a chasmosaurine (“long-frilled Ceratopsids”).

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