Scientists Unearth New Species of Triceratops-Like Dinosaur, the Wendiceratops

A team of Canadian scientists announced that bones found in 2010 are from a new dinosaur they named Wendiceratops. Danielle Dufault/Royal Ontario Museum

Buried on a hillside in the Alberta badlands, a group of horned dinosaurs lay at rest for 79 million years. Now, half a decade after first being spotted by a fossil hunter, their mystery has been uncovered. A team of Canadian scientists announced that the bones are from a new species, related to the iconic triceratops.

A paleontologist excavating at the site where Wendiceratops was discovered. David Evans/Royal Ontario Museum

The "new" creature, dubbed Wendiceratops pinhornensis, bears a series of hook-shaped horns on a rounded frill projecting from the back of its head. Scientists reconstructing the shape of the nasal bone confirmed that the nose supported a tall, upright horn. This finding represents the oldest nose horn—a common trait in the Ceratopsidae family of dinosaurs—ever found. According to a press release from the Royal Ontario Museum, the new species belongs to a different subfamily from triceratops, meaning it is not a direct ancestor. However, the new creature is a likely common ancestor of the entire Ceratopsidae family.

The creature's name is Latin for "Wendy's horned-face," and was chosen in honor of Wendy Slobada, who discovered the site in 2010. Slobada has been hunting dinosaurs for 30 years and has a knack for making new discoveries.

Namesake of #Wendiceratops, Wendy Sloboda is a truly incredible fossil hunter- and she has a cool new tattoo

— David Evans (@DavidEvans_ROM) July 9, 2015

David Evans, a curator at the Royal Ontario Museum, called Slobada "one of the very best dinosaur hunters in the world" in the museum's press release. The museum is now exhibiting a full-sized reconstruction of a Wendiceratops skeleton.

Evans, along with Michael Ryan of Cleveland's Museum of Natural History, reconstructed the beast in a study of over 200 loose bones. The Alberta site yielded at least four individual skeletons, including that of a juvenile. According to Ryan, the creature's horns could have been used in combat for territory or mates, much like modern bighorn sheep.