It’s no T-Rex, but scientists have identified a new dinosaur. The Mercuriceratops is a close relative to the Triceratops, but with a few notable differences. For one, it only weighs in at around two tons. That would make it about half the size of a Triceratops.
The Mercuriceratops is believed to have lived around 77 million years ago during the Late Cretaceous Period. It was about 20 feet long and sported a massive, parrot-like beak and horns above its eyes.
The most unique feature on the Mercuriceratops is the bony frill on its head with wings on either side
“We would never have predicted this from our experience with working on horned dinosaurs,” study lead author Michael Ryan, curator of vertebrate paleontology at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History, told the LA Times. “It’s modifying an element of the skull that’s never been modified before.”
Mercuriceratops gets its name from Mercury, the Greek messenger god who had wings on both sides of his helmet.
Today’s discovery comes after paleontologists studied two separate fossil samples. One in Montana, and another in Alberta, Canada. Having two separate fossils found hundreds of miles apart solidified the discovery of a new species. A single fossil can be explained away as a mutation.
So, what’s with the wing-like protrusions on its head? Scientists believe it was for attracting potential mates. Similar to peacocks and other animals who use unique physical appearance to attract mates.
The discovery also underscores how little is still known about the animals roaming in Earth’s past. The fossil found in Canada was located in Dinosaur Park, a familiar stomping ground for paleontologists. The Montana sample was found on private land.