London, Jan 7 (ANI): The world's largest dinosaur fossil site in China's Shandong province has revealed the first Asian triceratops.
According to a report in New Scientist, scientists unearthed a 2-metre-long skull of a close relative of the famed horned dinosaur triceratops at the site.
It marks the first evidence that the group, called ceratopsids, ever lived outside western North America.
Discovered last year in Zhucheng city, the Shandong deposit has already yielded more then 7600 fossils, according to Zhao Zijin of the Institute of Vertebrate Palaeontology and Palaeoanthropology in Beijing, making it one of the world's biggest dinosaur bone beds.
Researchers have not dated the bones precisely, but said that they come from the late Cretaceous - a period from 100 million to 65 million years ago that ended with the extinction of the dinosaurs.
Ceratopsids, which included triceratops, were four-legged rhino-like plant-eaters whose huge skulls bore three horns and distinctive bony frills.
Although some of their early ancestors lived in Asia, true ceratopsids had been found only in late Cretaceous deposits in Alaska, western Canada, and the western US.
Why they stayed in such a small range when the duck-billed dinosaurs and tyrannosaurs that lived alongside them also roamed into Asia had been a mystery.
The Chinese fossil "shows that eastern Asia and western North America were even more similar in biogeography than we previously thought," said Tom Holtz of the University of Maryland.
Ceratopsid bones normally are found in moist environments, but most Asian late Cretaceous fossils come from arid areas.
The Shandong bone bed shows that the large dinosaurs of the previously poorly known wet zones of Asia resembled their North American counterparts. (ANI)