Newly discovered dino 'may be father of Triceratops'

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Washington, Feb 1 (ANI): A newly discovered species of dinosaur appears to be related to the horned dinosaur species, Triceratops.

The new species, called Titanoceratops weighed nearly 15,000 pounds and a massive eight-foot-long skull. It lived in the American southwest during the late Cretaceous period around 74 million years ago and is the earliest known triceratopsin, suggesting the group evolved its large size more than five million years earlier than previously thought.

Nicholas Longrich, a palaeontologist at Yale, came across a description of a partial skeleton of a dinosaur discovered in New Mexico in 1941.

In 1995, the dinosaur was finally put together and identified incorrectly as Pentaceratops, a species common to the area. When the missing part of its frill - the signature feature of the horned dinosaurs - was reconstructed, it was modelled after Pentaceratops.

"When I looked at the skeleton more closely, I realized it was just too different from the other known Pentaceratops to be a member of the species," Longrich said.

The new species is very similar to Triceratops, but with a thinner frill, longer nose and slightly bigger horns, Longrich said.

However, according to Longrich, Titanoceratops is the ancestor of both Triceratops and Torosaurus, and that the latter two split several millions years after Titanoceratops evolved.

To confirm his theory, he now hopes that palaeontologists will find other fossil skeletons that include intact frills, which would help confirm the differences between Titanoceratops and Pentaceratops.

The study appears in an upcoming issue of the journal Cretaceous Research. (ANI)

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