Courtship 'frill' helps identify new dinosaur species

26th November 2014, Comments 0 comments

A US scientist has identified fossilised bones in a Canadian museum as belonging to a new species of dinosaur, saying researchers had only "scratched the surface" in terms of dinosaur diversity.

Nick Longrich, a paleontologist who teaches at the University of Bath in Britain, said the bones appear to be from a previously unknown Pentaceratops -- a buffalo-sized plant-eating horned dinosaur.

He said the distinctive "frill" -- the crest at the back of the animal's head -- helped identify it.

Previous specimens have been found in the southwestern United States but the 75-million-year-old fossils, brought to the museum 75 years ago, were found in the Canadian province of Alberta.

In a paper in the academic journal Cretaceous Research he christened the new species "Aquilonius" -- a Latin word meaning "northern".

"In 25 years we'll find twice as many dinosaurs. We're finding them faster than we ever were before," Longrich, a senior lecturer in the university's biology department, told AFP.

"It seems dinosaurs were more regional in their distribution than animals are today.

"If you look in different localities you get different dinosaur species," he said.

Longrich said he made his identification based on the skull and the "frill", which was believed to be a courtship device like a peacock's display.

"Every species ends up with a unique one," he said.

Around 700 species of dinosaurs have been identified so far but Longrich said that a re-evaluation of fossils in collections around the world meant that this number will rise even without new excavations.

"We're going to end up with a lot more dinosaurs," he said.

© 2014 AFP

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