Wendiceratops

Wendiceratops (/"WEN-dee-SARE-ah-TOPS"/; "Wendy's horned-face") is a genus of centrosaurine ceratopsian dinosaur that roamed what is now Alberta, Canada, during the Late Cretaceous period (around 79 million years ago). Its remains were discovered by fossil hunter Wendy Sloboda, in the Oldman Formation, and it was first described in 2015 by paleontologists David Evans and Michael Ryan.  Wendiceratops is one of the oldest known centrosaurine ceratopsians, providing crucial insights into the early evolution of this group.

Description and Classification

Wendiceratops is a member of the Ceratopsia, the group known for having horns and elaborate frills extending from the back of the skull. It falls within the Centrosaurinae subfamily, characterized by large nasal horns and shorter, more ornate frills compared to their Chasmosaurinae cousins (like Triceratops). With an estimated length of around 6 meters (20 feet) and weight of over a ton, Wendiceratops was a formidable herbivore.

Distinguishing Features

Wendiceratops is most notable for its spectacular skull ornamentation:

  • Nasal horn: While not as enormous as some other centrosaurines, its nasal horn was still prominent and slightly forward curving.
  • Frill ornamentation: The most striking feature! Along the frill edge was a series of unique, forward-curling hook-like horns. Additional smaller horns adorned the sides and top of the frill.
  • Potential display structures: This elaborate ornamentation likely served as a display feature for attracting mates or intimidating rivals.

Paleoenvironment and Diet

During the Late Cretaceous, much of Alberta was part of a coastal floodplain, with Wendiceratops living in a warm, humid environment. As a ceratopsian, Wendiceratops was a herbivore, its powerful jaws and specialized teeth allowing it to process tough vegetation like ferns, cycads, and early flowering plants.

Significance and Ongoing Research

The discovery of Wendiceratops, with its unusual skull ornamentation, helps paleontologists understand the diversity and evolution of ceratopsian dinosaurs. It highlights how these herbivores may have used extravagant features for social purposes beyond basic defense. Wendiceratops was found in a massive bonebed containing hundreds of individuals, offering a unique opportunity to study population dynamics and potential social behaviors within a single ceratopsian species.

 

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