160-Million-Year-Old Ceratopsian Dinosaur With 'Ornamental' Face Found In China

First Posted: Dec 11, 2015 12:04 PM EST

A team of scientists have identified a 160-million-year-old ceratopsian dinosaur and its skull has an "ornamental" surface, dating back to the late Jurassic period in China, according to a study.

Among the dinosaur species, Ceratopsia is one of the most-studied herbivorous dinosaur relatives. However, scientists constantly debated the early evolution of the Ceratopsia. In their recent study, the researchers analyzed the second ceratopsian to be found in the Upper Jurassic formation in northwestern China, where the two specimens dates back to about 160 million years ago, which are oldest ceratopsians that has been found.

The ceratopsian fossil was identified as 'Hualianceratops wucaiwanensis' based on the ornamental texture on its head and other distinctive features. The word "Hualian" translates as ornamental face. However, when the fossil was discover, the head was accompanied by a partial skeleton that was in a poor state, therefore there researchers were unable to gather detailed information about its body.

"Identifying Hualianceratops allows us to expand the beaked family of dinosaurs (Ceratopsia), which includes popular species like Triceratops and Psittacosaurus," Fenglu Han, lead author of the study from China University of Geosciences, said in a news release. "Now we know the horned dinosaurs thrived in the early Late Jurassic, and they co-existed with Guanlong, which was an early relative of T. rex and maybe threatened them."

The researchers were able to study the Hualianceratops wucaiwanensis relationship with other ceratopsians. From their analyses, they researchers found that there were about five ceratopsian lineages during the beginning of the Late Jurassic.

The findings of this study were published in the journal PLOS ONE.

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