Oldest Horned Dinosaur in North American Discovered

By Carl Engelking | December 10, 2014 1:00 pm

An artist’s reconstruction of Aquilops in its environment in ancient Montana. (Copyright Brian Engh, courtesy of Raymond M. Alf Museum of Paleontology)

Big things sometimes come in small packages, and that was certainly the case for a recent fossil finding in the United States.

Paleontologists working in southern Montana unearthed a 3-inch beaked skull with pointed cheeks, which they believe is the oldest definitive evidence of a horned dinosaur in North America. Though small, the skull helps fill gaps in the evolutionary history of horned creatures on this continent.

Horny Past

Fossil remains of horned dinosaurs, called neoceratopsian, have been found throughout North America, but the fossil record of these creatures is incredibly limited further back in time. That’s been a hang-up for paleontologists because the late Early Cretaceous period (roughly 113 to 105 million years ago) was a time of important diversification for horned dinosaurs.

In Asia, a collection of well-preserved fossils spells out this evolutionary history vividly, but fossil evidence in North America was limited to isolated teeth and bits of skulls.

The tiny skull paleontologists found in Montana’s Cloverly Formation is the first horned dinosaur from the Early Cretaceous that could be identified to the species level. The dinosaur, named Aquilops americanus, had a beak-like nose and sharply pointed cavities over its cheeks. The prehistoric horny creature probably grew to be the size of a crow.

Asian Migration

Aquilops bears a striking resemblance to the horned dinosaurs that were living in Asia during the same period of time. Therefore, paleontologists believe a series of migratory events between Asia and North America ensued during the Early Cretaceous, which enriched the diversity of neoceratopsian species.

The exact route these wandering dinosaurs traveled to and from Asia in unclear, though researchers say Aquilops probably made it to North America across the Beringian land bridge. They published their findings Tuesday in the online journal PLOS One.

The study’s authors say species in Asia and North America were isolated and connected multiple times in the past, based on the dispersal and kinds of fossils found on each continent. However, determining what these events were and how they occurred will require more fieldwork.

But one thing we do know now, horned beasts were living in North America for a lot longer than we thought.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Living World, top posts
MORE ABOUT: dinosaurs, paleontology
  • Buddy199

    They should have named it after Hugh Hefner.

  • Kathy Robertson

    gee, what about plate techtonics-might they possibly have been together about that time?

  • Don’t Even Try It!

    Everything from asia is small. Why should this creature be any different?

  • Philip


  • John Reynaga

    They could probably show you a fake unicorn “fossil”, put that in the news, and you people wouldn’t even question that either lol Dinosaurs are Jesuit nonsense, part of the evolution agenda being forced
    on humanity. The world is controlled. People have to learn about
    Freemasons and the Jesuit order. Evidence is key. Start examining
    evidence like a detective, with a critical open mind. It’s only then
    you will see what’s really going on. The Jesuit order wants
    Christianity destroyed, and they have invented the “big bang theory” and
    have pretended to launch the Hubble Space Telescope into orbit, which
    is also complete nonsense. There are bubbles in the water tank as they
    do their fake space walks. The Hubble Space Telescope is one of the
    biggest frauds forced onto humanity, next to nuclear weapons, and
    evolution/dinosaurs. When NASA finally claims that they have found life
    in the universe because of the chemical composition of light from a
    distant “planet”, it will all be part of the same agenda. It will
    probably take hundreds of more years to completely destroy Christianity,
    but the Jesuit order wants ultimate power, and the enslavement of
    everyone, so the destruction of Christianity is one of their top
    priorities in all of their operations that they have laid out for us.

    • http://www.strategicresumes.com Grant Cooper

      You appear to be in the wrong section of the Discover website. Try looking under “Health & Medicine” and then do a search for Paranoia & Conspiracy Theories. You’ll find an excellent review of a book, “Conspiracy Nation: The Politics of Paranoia in Postwar America.” John, your belief that fossils are “fake” is the biggest leap of all. Do you really think that many thousands of paleontologists (not to mention astronomers, etc.) in museums, classrooms, and field expeditions from the U.S., Canada, China, Europe, South America, Africa, etc., are all secretly deceiving the public, then carefully hiding this grand scheme from their new students until they can “let them in” on the hoax? Incidentally, my son is a successful geologist. I imagine you are probably unaware that geologists use paleontology and fossils every day as one of their various techniques in discovering oil & gas, that in some cases, rests more than a mile underground. You can be sure that profit-driven oil companies would never hire these trained geologists if they were following fake theories. You may also want to consider adjusting your medication… or if you have never sought psychiatric help in the past, consider doing so at once, as you may at some point become a danger to yourself or others, particularly if you continue to pursue such obvious delusions.

    • Cynthia Doke

      Is this guy for real? Smh


Discover's Newsletter

Sign up to get the latest science news delivered weekly right to your inbox!


See More

Collapse bottom bar