How dinos like Triceratops got their horns

Wendiceratops pinhornensis

A new dino named Wendiceratops pinhornensis (illustrated) gives hints about how Triceratops and other relatives got their horns.

Danielle Dufault

Even among its horned dino relatives, Wendiceratops looks pretty weird. This newly identified Triceratops relative had hooklike horns ringing its neck frill and a short, stout spike shooting from its snout. It roamed what is now Canada nearly 79 million years ago, making it one of the oldest horned dinos of its kind discovered to date, researchers report July 8 in PLOS ONE.

Wendiceratops pinhornensis gets its name from famed fossil hunter Wendy Sloboda and the Pinhorn Provincial Grazing Reserve in Alberta, where it was found. Scientists recovered more than 200 Wendiceratops fossils from the reserve. A reconstruction of the dino reveals that it was roughly 6 meters long and weighed about a ton; it also appeared to have a stout nasal horn not seen in other older dinos of the centrosaurine family. Wendiceratops may be an intermediary between dinos with barely there nasal horns, such as Albertaceratops, and ones with more prominent nose horns, such as Coronosaurus, the scientists suggest.

horned dino
A skeletal reconstruction of Wendiceratops pinhornensis shows the bones that scientists recovered in blue. D. Evans and M. Ryan/PLOS ONE 2015
photo of Ashley Yeager

Ashley Yeager is the associate news editor at Science News. She has worked at The Scientist, the Simons Foundation, Duke University and the W.M. Keck Observatory, and was the web producer for Science News from 2013 to 2015. She has a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, and a master’s degree in science writing from MIT.

More Stories from Science News on Paleontology

From the Nature Index

Paid Content