Washington: A newly found fossil of a horned dinosaur Ojoceratops fowleri is apparently the ancestor of the more famous and common Triceratops and Torosaurus.
Torosaurus lived at the end of the reign of dinosaurs 65 to 70 million years ago.
The key to discovering the new species, pieces of which had been mistaken for a Torosaurus for more than 30 years, was fossil evidence of the frill on the beast’s head, explain palaeontologists.
"Ojoceratops is important because the horned dinosaurs (and indeed, all dinosaurs) have been so elusive. We’ve only had bits and pieces up to this point, which has frustrated any attempts to determine how the animals in New Mexico at this time related to those from other parts of North America," Discovery News quoted paleontologist Andy Farke of the Alf Museum of Paleontology in Claremont, Calif, as saying.
"We were all calling it Torosaurus for the horned dino that was known to have lived in the area," explained palaeontologist Spencer Lucas of the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science in Albuquerque.
Triceratops fossils have only been found further north, in Colorado and beyond, he said.
They required more pieces of the dinosaur’s skull to reveal who this animal really was, and found those in the summer of 2005 in the Bisti/De-na-zin Wilderness of northwest New Mexico by Denver Fowler, who is now a PhD student at Montana State University.
"What he found was this big honking bone in front of the frill. We really had this breakthrough," said Lucas.
When the new skull pieces were used to reconstruct the skull, what they had looked more like a Triceratops than a Torosaurus.
However, the frill on the top of its skull was squared off, unlike a Triceratops.
"Although the Ojoceratops material doesn’t represent a complete skull, there is definitely enough there to say what it is and how it’s closely related to animals, such as Triceratops. Previously, nearly any scrappy fossil of a horned dinosaur from New Mexico had been referred to Torosaurus," said Farke.
Lucas is the co-author of a paper officially describing Ojoceratops fowleri in the new book New Perspectives on Horned Dinosaurs.