New Haven, Conn. When Nicholas Longrich discovered a new dinosaur species with a heart-shaped frill on its head, he wanted to come up with a name just as flamboyant as the dinosaur's appearance. Over a few beers with fellow paleontologists one night, he blurted out the first thing that came to mind: Mojoceratops.
"It was just a joke, but then everyone stopped and looked at each other and said, 'Wait that actually sounds cool,' " said Longrich, a postdoctoral associate at Yale University. "I tried to come up with serious names after that, but Mojoceratops just sort of stuck."
With the publication of Longrich's paper describing his find in the Journal of Paleontology, online today, the name is now official.
The dinosaur is one of more than a dozen species belonging to the chasmosaurine ceratopsid family, which are defined by elaborate frills on their skulls. A plant eater about the size of a hippopotamus, Mojoceratops appeared about 75 million years ago during the Late Cretaceous 10 million years earlier than its well-known cousin, the Triceratops. The species, which is related to another dinosaur in Texas, is found only in Canada's Alberta and Saskatchewan provinces and was short-lived, having survived for only about one million years.
It was only after coming up with the unusual name that Longrich looked into its etymology. Surprisingly, he found that it was a perfect fit for the species, which sported a flamboyant, heart-shaped frill on its head.
"I discovered that 'mojo' is an early 20th-century African-American term meaning a magic charm or talisman, often used to attract members of the opposite sex," he said. "This dinosaur probably used its frill to attract mates, so the name made sense." The full name is Mojoceratops perifania, with "perifania" meaning pride in Greek. (The other part of the name mojoceratops follows the convention of other related s
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