History has been made and discovered by a University of Oklahoma paleontologist. Dr. Rich Cifelli is the paleontology curator for the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History. He and a team of researchers, including Dr. Andrew Farke from the Raymond M. Alf Museum of Paleontology in California, discovered a 108-million year old fossil skull in southern Montana. Here’s what it looks like.
Photo by Scott Nichols, copyright Raymond M. Alf Museum of Paleontology
It’s called, Aquilops americanus or “American eagle face”. It belongs to the Ceratopsia family which you and I know as the horned dinosaurs…think Triceratops. It’s characterized by it’s spikelike cheekbones and upper beak bone. It just doesn’t have the facial horns and frill that you normally associate with a Triceratops like animal.
courtesy: University of Oklahoma
The cool part of this discovery is that Aquilops is about 20 million years older than any other known Ceratopsian species in North America, making it the oldest known member of the horned dinosaur family in this part of the world.
Richard Cifelli, Paleontology Curator Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History
“We were excited that it looked like a skull of a small plant-eating dinosaur, but we assumed that it belonged to a species already known,” said Cifelli. “We didn’t realize right away what a big discovery we had made.”
Aquilops is estimated to have been about two feet long and weigh three pounds, similar to the size of a small cat.
(3-D model designed by Sam Noble Museum exhibit technician Garrett Stowe)
The skull will be stored in the vertebrate paleontology collection at the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History in Norman. It will go on exhibit in 2015 in the museum’s Hall of Ancient Life right next to Pentaceratops, which holds the Guinness World Record for being the largest dinosaur skull ever found.