Gates explained that Velafrons represents the first occurrence of a crested duck-billed dinosaur in this region of North America. The crested duck-billed dinosaurs are an extraordinary example of vertebrate evolution, he said. Unlike other animals where the nose bone lies in front of their eyes, these dinosaurs transformed their skulls so that the nose rested atop their skull. The snout extended backward, up their face, in order to fill the gap left by the relocated nose bone.
Interestingly, breathing was not straight-forward for Velafrons and its kin. Air flowed through a series of passages from the snout, into their crest, and finally inserting through a hole above their eyes. Scientists are uncertain what Velafrons fan-shaped crest would have been used for, but a leading hypothesis suggests mate attraction, which explains the complex nasal passages as a possible musical instrument.
An Ancient Ecosystem Revealed
In addition to Velafrons, the most recent expeditions recovered remains of a second kind of duck-bill dinosaur, as well as a plant-eating horned dinosaur. Like its famous cousin, Triceratops, the new Coahuila horned dinosaur bore a massive horn over each eye and a long bony frill projecting rearward. The Cerro del Pueblo Formation has also yielded remains of large and small carnivores, including large tyrannosaurs (though smaller, older relatives of T. rex), and more diminutive Velociraptor-like predators armed with sickle-claws on their feet. As well as an abundance of fossilized bones, researchers discovered the largest assemblage of dinosaur track ways known from Mexico, a large area crisscrossed with the tracks of different kinds of dinosaurs. In all, the emerging picture is one of a diverse group of dinosaurs, perhaps representing an entirely new set of species.
|Contact: Patti Carpenter|
University of Utah