New Species of Bone-Headed Dinosaur Hinting at Higher Diversity of Small Dinosaurs
Scientists have named a new species of bone-headed dinosaur (pachycephalosaur) from Alberta, Canada. Acrotholus audeti was identified from both recently discovered and historically collected fossils. Approximately six feet long and weighing about 40 kilograms in life, the newly identified plant-eating dinosaur represents the oldest bone-headed dinosaur in North America, and possibly the world. Dr. Michael Ryan, curator of vertebrate paleontology at The Cleveland Museum of Natural History, co-authored research describing the new species, which was published May 7, 2013 in the journal Nature Communications…
“The unique fossil record of these animals suggests that we are only beginning to understand the diversity of small-bodied plant-eating dinosaurs” said lead author Evans, ROM curator, vertebrate palaeontology. Small mammals and reptiles can be very diverse and abundant in modern ecosystems, but small dinosaurs (less than 100 kg) are considerably less common than large ones in the fossil record. Whether this pattern is a true reflection of dinosaur communities, or is related to the greater potential for small bones to be destroyed by carnivores and natural decay, has been debated. The massively constructed skull domes of pachycephalosaurs are resistant to destruction, and are much more common than their relatively delicate skeletons—which resemble those of other small plant-eating dinosaurs….
“This fully domed and mature individual suggests that there is an undiscovered, hidden diversity of small-bodied dinosaurs. So when we look back, we need to reimagine the paleoenvironment. There is an evolutionary history that we just don’t know because the fossil record is incomplete…”
Image: Julius Csotonyi