Mercuriceratops, center, compared with two other horned dinosaur species. / Courtesy Danielle Dufault
Say hello to Mercuriceratops, the newest species of dinosaurs.
Unlike the other 60-plus known species of horned dinosaurs, Mercuriceratops has wing-like protrusions on the side of its skull.
"The first time we saw it, it reminded us of the fins of a 1950s Cadillac," said Michael Ryan, curator of vertebrate paleontology at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History, in an interview with USA TODAY Network.
Measuring about 20 feet long and weighing more than 2 tons, Mercuriceratops lived about 77 million years ago.
The species is named after Mercury, the Roman god with the winged helmet. Mercuriceratops means "Mercury horned-face," Ryan said. He was the lead author of a report published this month on Mercuriceratops in the journal Naturwissenschaften.
Scientists don't think the protrusions were used for protection because the bone is "pretty thin and would snap easily," Ryan said.
Instead, the ornamentation was probably a way to attract mates.
"Males are trying to reproduce with females, and you need to stand out from the crowd," he said.
The scientists have found parts of two skulls, one in Montana and the other in Alberta, Canada.
When the first specimen was found in 2007 in Montana, scientists thought it was from an animal that was deformed, but when the second was discovered in 2012, "we knew we had something new that wasn't an anomaly," Ryan said.
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