Xuanhuaceratops (/"shwan-hwa-SEH-rah-tops"/; "Xuanhua horned face") is a controversial name associated with a fragmentary ceratopsian dinosaur specimen discovered in the Late Jurassic Houcheng Formation in China. Initially, paleontologist Zhao Xijin used this name in 1985, but it was published without a full scientific description. This practice makes it a nomen nudum – an invalid name in scientific taxonomy.

Description and Classification:

The lack of a proper description and limited fossil material makes it impossible to determine the exact size and features of Xuanhuaceratops with certainty. However, based on its assumed relation to other early ceratopsians, it was likely a small, bipedal, herbivorous dinosaur with a parrot-like beak and a rudimentary frill (the bony shield behind the head) characteristic of ceratopsians.

Due to its uncertain status, the exact classification of Xuanhuaceratops remains unclear, but it's believed to belong to the primitive ceratopsian family Chaoyangsauridae.

Controversy and Uncertain Status:

The major problem with Xuanhuaceratops lies in the lack of a valid description accompanying the name. Paleontological naming standards require a detailed description of diagnostic features (unique traits) that differentiate a new genus or species from existing ones. Without this, the name "Xuanhuaceratops" cannot be officially recognized.

It's possible that the fossils originally attributed to Xuanhuaceratops belong to another known ceratopsian genus, or there might be enough unique features to establish it as a separate genus if a full description is ever published.

Back to blog