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Xenoceratops, Canada’s Oldest Ceratopsid

November 8, 2012

Life reconstruction of  Xenoceratops. Courtesy Danielle Dufault

Today, Michael Ryan and I published a paper on a new centrosaurine ceratopsid from the Formemost Formation of Alberta, from strata that are approximately 80 million years old. This makes Xenoceratops foremostensis not only the known ceratopsid from western Canada, but one of the oldest members of Ceratopsidae currently known. The early fossil record of Ceratopsidae, the family of large bodied horned dinosaurs that includes Triceratops, remains poor. But Xenoceratops provides new information on the anatomy and diversity of this well known dinosaur group at a relatively early stage in their evolution.

The fossils of Xenoceratops were originally found by Wann Langston Jr. in 1958, and were placed in the collections of the Geological Survey of Canada (now Canadian Museum of Nature) after they were collected. About a decade ago, Michael and I noticed some of the usual frill fragments in a drawer, which led us, with the help of Kieran Shepherd, to the plaster jackets that contained the holotype frill.

Our survey of museum collections for dinosaur fossils from the Oldman and Foremost formations is part of a larger, predominantly field-based project- The Southern Alberta Dinosaur Project. This research focuses on the paleontology of some of oldest dinosaur-bearing rocks in Alberta, which are less intensely studied than that of the famous badlands of Dinosaur Provincial Park and Drumheller, but correspond to a gap in our knowledge of Late Cretaceous dinosaurs and  their evolution. The project has been successful so far, and more new dinosaurs are on the way.

Ryan, M. J., D. C. Evans, and K. Shepherd. 2012. A new ceratopsid from the Foremost Formation (middle Campanian), Alberta. Canadian Journal of Earth Sciences 49: 1251–1262. Available here.

See the press release here.

Watch the Cleveland Museum of Natural History Podcast with Dr. Michael Ryan here.

Watch the Canada AM interview with David Evans here.

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