Reexamining Fossils Revealed a New Dinosaur Species

A distinct species of Pentaceratops was hiding in a museum’s fossil collection

An artists' rendition of a different species of Pentaceratops alongside a modern white rhinoceros for scale Walter Myers /Stocktrek Images/Corbis

Discovering a new dinosaur usually takes years, if not decades, of painstaking field work. But sometimes all it takes is a keen eye. That's how University of Bath palaeontologist Nick Longrich found two suspected new dinosaur species—they were hiding amongst the fossils housed at the Canadian Museum of Nature in Ottawa.

Originally thought to be the remnants of two known dinosaur species from western Canada, the fossils had been sitting at the museum for the past 75 years. Closer inspection by Longrich, however, revealed that the fossils “more closely resembled dinosaurs from the American south west,” says the Western Daily Press. Based on differences in bone shape and arrangement, Longrich proposed in a new study the argument that these fossils represent new species—northern relatives of the southwestern dinosaurs.

One of the dinosaurs is “a new species of the dinosaur Pentaceratops - a smaller cousin of the familiar horned plant-eater Triceratops,” says the BBC. With the new name Pentaceratops aquilonius, “[i]t was a buffalo-sized plant eater that lived from about 75 million years ago.”

The other dinosaur is suspected to be a new species of Kosmoceratops, a genus known for their elaborate frills.

One big underlying assumption for archaeologists is that we'll only ever find a small slice of the species that ever existed. Each new find, then, suggests an even greater abundance of dinosaur diversity than previously imagined.

“We thought we had discovered most of the species, but it seems there are many undiscovered dinosaurs left,” said Longrich in a release issued by the University of Bath. “There are lots of species out there. We’ve really only just scratched the surface.”

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