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Natural History Museum Curator Names New Horned Dinosaur

Friday, May 28, 2010 at 10:18 AM

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Artist's rendering of <em>Medusaceratops lokii</em>

A Cleveland Museum of Natural History scientist has put a name to a new variety of horned dinosaur that roamed North America 78 million years ago.

Dr. Michael Ryan, the museum’s curator of Vertebrate Paleontology, was part of the team that studied the Medusaceratops lokii since its discovery in the mid-1990s in Montana. 

The identity of the specimen stumped Ryan and his team for years. It closely resembles other North American horned dinosaurs, but Ryan says its shattered skull made identifying it difficult.  Finally doing so adds a previously unknown chapter to earth’s history. 

“In the broader sense, every time you find a new dinosaur, it’s just generally cool.  So it has a coolness factor associated with that,” Ryan says.  “But I think in the bigger picture what this tells us is that at least for the horn dinosaurs that we’re talking about here, the new Medusaceratops, which is fairly closely related to the Triceratops, that we used to think of them as sort of as coming in one flavor, there was one shape for them, but we now know that there’s quite a different variety of flavors, some of which are very closely related.  It means that even if you have two animals who look very similar, they probably lived in very different ways and lived in very different areas.”

The Medusaceratops lokii was named after the dinosaur’s curling hooks on the back of its head that resembled the snake-like hair of the Greek monster, Medusa and after Lokii, the Norse god of mischief and deceit, because of the team’s initial uncertainty with the dinosaur’s classification. 

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