Washington: Researchers have discovered a new species of plant-eating horned dinosaur in China, suggesting the Jurassic period might have had more species diversity than previously thought.
Led by James Clark, Ronald Weintraub associate professor of biology at the George Washington University and Xu Xing, professor at the Chinese cademy of Sciences, the research team discovered Hualianceratops wucaiwanensis, that stood on its hind feet and was about the size of a spaniel.
The new species belonging to the ceratopsia family was found in the same fossil beds in China's Xinjiang province where the robust and heavily built Hualianceratops was discovered in 2002 by the same team.
"Finding these two species in the same fossil beds reveals there was more diversity there than we previously recognised," said co-author Catherine Forster, professor of biology in the Geological Sciences programme at the George Washington University.
"It suggests that the ceratopsian dinosaurs already had diversified into at least four lineages by the beginning of the Jurassic Period."
Identifying the new species will help researchers reexamine the pace and pattern of ceratopsian evolution.
Hualianceratops lived approximately 160 million years ago (early in the late Jurassic Period).
"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," said Fenglu Han, a postdoctoral student in the School of Earth Sciences at China University of Geosciences and lead author of the paper
The findings were published on Wednesday in the journal PLOS ONE.