Monday, 22 April 2013

V is for Vagaceratops

This week on the Albertan dinosaur alphabet we have yet another ceratopsian in 'V is for Vagaceratops', the only 'V' dinosaur from Alberta. In 2001, a new species of Chasmosaurus was named, "Chasmosaurus irvinensis". It was distinguished on the basis of a broad snout, absence of orbital horns (the position instead occupied by pits and rugose bosses), a square-shaped frill, and other highly technical characters [1]. It also had 10 forward-facing 'hornlets' (epiparietals) on the back of the frill. It is known from southern Alberta, the Dinosaur Park Formation to be exact, from the Late Cretaceous (about 75 million years ago). The type specimen was a fragmented, but nearly complete skull, while two other skulls were also referred to this species. 
Vagaceratops by Nobu Tamura

As is often the case in palaeontology, further analysis years later suggested that this species was, in fact, not a Chasmosaurus. While describing two other ceratopsians (Kosmoceratops and Utahceratops) from Utah, an analysis suggested that it was more closely related to Kosmoceratops [2]. They erected the name Vagaceratops meaning 'wandering-horned-face', in reference to the fact that the group made of Kosmoceratops+Vagaceratops has been found in Alberta and Utah. While other studies have also found this relationship, not all researchers agree. 

Vagaceratops is yet another example of the many species of horned dinosaur present in Alberta during the Late Cretaceous. They showed a very wide diversity, and there are constantly more species being found. 

Next week, we will be talking about a dinosaur not from Alberta, as there are no Albertan dinosaurs that start with 'W'. And remember, Jurassic Forest will soon be opening to the public for the season! Stay tuned for more details!

1. Holmes, R.B. et al. 2001. A new species of Chasmosaurus (Dinosauria: Ceratopsia) from the Dinosaur Park Formation of southern Alberta. Canadian Journal of Earth Sciences 38: 1423-1438.
2. Sampson, S. D. et al. 2010. New horned dinosaurs from Utah provide evidence for intracontinental dinosaur endemism. PLoS ONE 5: 12292. 10.1371/journal.pone.0012292

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