While all ceratopsids have frills on the tops of their skulls, "Mojoceratops is the most ostentatious," Longrich said, adding that their frill is also the most heart-shaped of all the related species.
Longrich got his first clue that he might have found a new species at the American Museum of Natural History in New York, where he was studying the dinosaur fossil collection in 2008. There, he found a distinctive frill that didn't match anything previously known. Later, while sketching the skull of another specimen on display, which was thought to be a species called Chasmosaurus, he noticed the skull was identical to the one on the specimen next to it.
"I realized the skull on the supposed Chasmosaurus must have been a reconstruction," he explained. When he studied the front of the skull, Longrich noticed some differences from the typical Chasmosaurus, including longer horns than usual. Trips to other museums in Western Canada turned up more examples that didn't fit with the rest of the known species. "The fossils didn't look like anything we'd seen before. They just looked wrong," he said.
Finding yet another previously unknown large dinosaur species that comes from Dinosaur Provincial Park in Alberta, Canada-which boasts the world's most diverse dinosaur fauna-was somewhat surprising, Longrich said, because the fossils have been studied for such a long time already. "So far, we really have no good explanation for why there are so many dinosaurs in the area and just how they managed to coexist," he said.
All in all, Longrich turned up eight partial skulls of the new species, which now boasts a name with just as much flair as its unusually shaped head.
"You're supposed to use Latin and Greek names, but this just seemed more fun," Longrich said. "You can do good science and still have some fun, too. So why not?"
|Contact: Suzanne Taylor Muzzin|