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Sci-Tech

Dinosaur with curly-horned head unearthed in Canada

Paleontologists piece together over 200 bones to discover a Triceratops relative with more horns sticking out of its head than the mutant offspring of a deer and a rhinoceros.

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Attention Hollywood! There's still time to put Wendiceratops pinhornensis into the extended cut of "Jurassic World" before it goes to Blu-ray. Illustration by Danielle Dufault/PLOS One

The triceratops is definitely my favorite dinosaur. You can have your meat-eating machines like the Tyrannosaurus rex or the Velociraptor. The triceratops had a certain stoicism and strength that made it a truly marvelous creature. The triceratops may have been an herbivore but it could also throw down if an enemy or a predator dared to cross it. It was like Chuck Norris if he were a militant vegetarian.

The Ceratopsidae, the family classification of the triceratops and other horned dinosaurs, just got cooler. It turns out that it included an even more badass cousin called the Wendiceratops pinhornensis that had a bunch of horns on its head, making it the face-pierced biker punk of its period.

Paleontologists from the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto and the Cleveland Museum of Natural History discovered the new, 20-foot-long dinosaur, which weighed more than a ton, from a series of more than 200 bones from four individual dinosaurs. The bones were found in the Oldman Formation located in southern Alberta near the Montana border, according to a statement released by the museum on Wednesday.

The paleontologists who made the discovery also published a paper about the new dinosaur species in the PLOS One journal on Wednesday.

The Wendiceratops pinhornensis,named after famed Alberta fossil hunter and photographer Wendy Sloboda, who discovered the first fossils of the new species, is such a unique find because of its distinctive cranial structure. According to the research paper, it had "a large, upright nasal horn located close to the orbits" in addition to the two horns located on its brow like the triceratops, making it a tripod of pointy toughness when dealing with predators.

Wendiceratops pinhornensis also had "a series of forward-curling hook-like horns along the margin of the wide, shield-like frill that projects from the back of its skull," according to the statement. Its vertically stretched head capped with hard, curly horns makes it look like an undead peacock from Hell.

Michael Ryan, the curator of vertebrate paleontology at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History, who co-authored the PLOS One study, said in the statement that the creature's intricate array of curled horns also "could have been used in combat between males to gain access to territory or females."

David Evans, the Royal Ontario Museum's curator of vertebrate paleontology, another co-author of the PLOS One study, said in the museum's statement that this newly discovered species is "one of the most striking horned dinosaurs ever found." He added that this find could lead to further groundbreaking (no pun intended) discoveries in the Ceratopsidae family and a new understanding of "the early evolution of skull ornamentation in an iconic group of dinosaurs characterized by their horned faces."

There have been other relatives that were recently added to the triceratops' family. Back in June, paleontologists from the Royal Tyrrell Museum of Palaeontology in Alberta announced the discovery of the horned skull of a creature called Regaliceratops peterhewsi, a dinosaur that also had three horns on its head with a large halo of bony plates sticking out of the top of its skull. Paleontologists from the Natural History Museum of Utah also discovered the Nasutoceratops titusi back in June of 2013, another triceratops-esque creature with curled horns on the top of its head and a large nose.

My hope is that this may someday lead to the discovery of another species in the Ceratopsidae family: a similar-looking creature, but with its row of horns beneath its chin, like a bony, horned beard. They could call it the Chucknorrisceratops facepuncheri.

(Via the Press Trust of India)