A new species of dinosaurs named "Wendy's horned-face," was recently unearthed in southern Alberta, Canada. The dinosaur, whose scientific name is Wendiceratops pinhornensis, had elaborate horns and head ornamentation, shedding light on the evolution of such features in the Triceratops family, of which the new dino is a member.
"Wendiceratops helps us understand the early evolution of skull ornamentation in an iconic group of dinosaurs characterized by their horned faces," explained co-author David Evans in a press release.
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"The wide frill of Wendiceratops is ringed by numerous curled horns, the nose had a large, upright horn," Evans said, "and it's likely there were horns over the eyes too. The number of gnarly frill projections and horns makes it one of the most striking horned dinosaurs ever found."
Evans, of the Royal Ontario Museum and the University of Toronto, along with Michael Ryan of the Cleveland Museum of Natural History, reported the find in the latest issue of the journal PLOS ONE. They named the dinosaur after renowned Alberta fossil hunter Wendy Sloboda, who discovered the site where the remains were found in 2010.
Over 200 bones representing at least four Wendy dinosaurs (three adults and one juvenile) were collected from the lower part of what's known as the Oldman Formation in Alberta. The paleontologists say that Wendy dinos lived around 79 million years ago.
On its head, Wendy had a series of forward-curling, hook-like horns that adorned its wide, shield-like frill, which projected from the back of its skull. Although made out of horn, the ornamentation gave Wendy a curly hair look.
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"Wendiceratops is inferred to have a large, upright nasal horn," wrote the authors, "which represents the oldest occurrence of this feature in Ceratopsia." This likely foreshadowed later evolution of this and other facial horns in such dinosaurs.
For example, just over 10 million years after Wendy lived, Triceratops emerged. This large, four-legged and plant-eating dinosaur famously had a massive head with two large horns, a smaller horn on its beaked snout, and a bony frill above the neck. By comparing these features with those of ancestor Wendy, the researchers gained clues on how and why the horns and frills evolved.
While species identification, other visual communication, and attractiveness for potential mates were possible functions, the features must have helped to protect the dinosaurs. Despite its curls, frills and feminine name, Wendy grew to be approximately 20 feet long and weighed more than a ton.