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article imageNew 'Hellboy' dinosaur discovered in Alberta

By Robert Myles     Jun 5, 2015 in Science
Drumheller - Canadian palaeontologists associated with the Tyrrell Museum of Palaeontology in Alberta have identified a new species of horned dinosaur with some bizarre features.
Their discovery comes almost a decade after Peter Hews happened upon some bones protruding from a cliff-face bordering the Oldman river in south-eastern Alberta.
Examination revealed that the bones belonged to a near-intact skull of a highly unusual horned dinosaur. The newly identified species is a close relative of the more familiar triceratops. In homage to Peter Hews, the bones’ finder, the new species has been named Regaliceratops peterhewsi by the Royal Tyrrell’s Dr. Caleb Brown and his research co-author, Donald Henderson. “Regaliceratops” refers to one of the creature’s most distinctive and bizarre features, a shield-like frill at the back of the skull.
Despite its similarities to triceratops, Brown quipped, only half-jokingly, that the new species’ uniqueness meant it could be identified as such from 100 meters away. Describing the find, Brown said, “The specimen comes from a geographic region of Alberta where we have not found horned dinosaurs before, so from the onset we knew it was important," before adding, "However, it was not until the specimen was being slowly prepared from the rocks in the laboratory that the full anatomy was uncovered, and the bizarre suite of characters revealed. Once it was prepared it was obviously a new species, and an unexpected one at that. Many horned-dinosaur researchers who visited the museum did a double take when they first saw it in the laboratory."
While regaliceratops peterhewsi has a prominent, central facial horn and a frill reminiscent of triceratops, there the similarities end. The new find has some bizarre features not the least of which are two horns over its eyes which the researchers describe as "almost comically small." But the new dinosaur’s most distinctive feature, according to Brown, is its frill which he describes as pentagonal plates radiating outward. The overall effect makes the new species look as though it had donned a crown.
Although the new dinosaur will be catalogued as regaliceratops peterhewsi, Brown and Henderson say they’ve taken to referring to their new find, more informally, as “Hellboy.”
Although interesting in its own right, this “Hellboy” dinosaur could have implications in shedding light on the evolution of dinosaurs’ horned ornamentation, say the researchers. Horned dinosaurs fall into two groups.
Firstly there are the Chasmosaurines, with a small horn over the nose, larger horns over the eyes, triceratops being the most widely recognised example. Then there are Centrosaurines, characterized by a large horn over the nose, small horns over the eyes, and a short frill.
“Hellboy” appears to have some characteristics of both these dinosaur sub-families, as Brown says, “This new species is a Chasmosaurine, but it has ornamentation more similar to Centrosaurines. It also comes from a time period following the extinction of the Centrosaurines."
These factors, according to Brown, point to this being the first example of evolutionary convergence in horned dinosaurs, meaning that these two groups independently evolved similar features.
The researchers are hopeful that other regaliceratops peterhewsi specimens may be uncovered. Further research will also involve carrying out digital reconstructions of the skull. Although the skull is intact, given that it has lain at rest for almost 70 million years in the foothills of the Rockies, some deformation has occurred.
So are there more dinosaurs out there yet to be discovered in them, thar hills? Brown thinks there may be.
"This discovery also suggests that there are likely more horned dinosaurs out there that we just have not found yet, so we will also be looking for other new species," he said.
Details of the research are published June 4 in Current Biology
More about Dinosaurs, hellboy dinosaur, Triceratops, dinosaurs in alberta, newly discovered dinosaurs
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