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article imageNew dinosaur species discovered in museum storage

By Leigh Goessl     Dec 6, 2011 in Science
Nearly 100 years after a set of fossil remains were uncovered, an international team of scientists has discovered a new species of dinosaur.
The new discovery, a horned dinosaur named Spinops sternbergorum (pronounced "SPIN-ops stern-berg-OR-uhm"), roamed the Earth approximately 76 million years ago, during the Late Cretaceous period, in southern Alberta, Canada, according to a press release.
Spinops sternbergorum is named after its spiny face, and combines with the name of the original discoverers, a father and son fossil collecting team. The duo, Charles H. and Levi Sternberg, found the prehistoric remains back in 1916. The Telegraph reports the fossils were excavated from a quarry in the vicinity of a "bone bed" of fossils.
Upon finding the skulls, the two men noticed the uniqueness of the remains and shipped the fossils off to the Natural History Museum in London. Upon arrival at the museum, the pieces were considered "too scrappy" for exhibit, and the dinosaur remains were placed in storage for decades. They remained shelved until they were pulled out and cleaned for study after experts recognized the importance of these previously unobserved fossils.
Spinops sternbergorum is described as a smaller cousin of Triceratops. The prehistoric animal was a plant-eater estimated to weigh about two tons during its era.
The press release described the dinosaur as having "a single large horn projected from the top of the nose, and a bony neck frill sported at least two long, backward-projecting spikes as well as two forward-curving hooks."
It is these characteristics that differentiate Spinops from other known horned dinosaurs.
"I was amazed to learn the story behind these specimens, and how they went unstudied for so long," said Andrew Farke, Augustyn Family Curator of Paleontology at the Raymond M. Alf Museum of Paleontology, and lead author on the study naming Spinops. "This animal is an important addition to our understanding of horned dinosaur diversity and evolution," Farke continued.
"This study highlights the importance of museum collections for understanding the history of our planet," Farke said. "My colleagues and I were pleasantly surprised to find these fossils on the museum shelf, and even more astonished when we determined that they were a previously unknown species of dinosaur."
Further reading can be found on the museum's page 'Quick Facts About Spinops'.
The full details of this discovery and formal naming of the new dinosaur species are outlined in the December issue of the journal Acta Palaeontologica Polonica.
More about dinosaur species, new dinosaur, Museum, Spinops sternbergorum, Fossils
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