New Horned Dinosaur Nicknamed Hellboy Reconstructed

Around a decade ago, a man named Peter Hews came across bones almost hanging from a cliff along a river in southeastern Alberta, Canada. These bones have now been documented: they form a nearly complete skull of a rather unusual horned dinosaur – recently named Regaliceratops peterhewsi – that might have been a close relative of the Triceratops. The findings have been described in the Cell Press journal Current Biology.

new dino

A life reconstruction of the newly-discovered Regaliceratops peterhewsi rendered by an artist. The environment represents the Late Cretaceous period in Alberta, Canada. Photo credits:- Art by Julius T. Csotonyi. Courtesy of Royal Tyrrell Museum, Drumheller, Alberta.

Crowned Hellboy in Alberta

The discovery of the partial skull of the otherwise unknown dinosaur marks an important event for scientists. The scientific name of the dinosaur – Regaliceratops peterhewsi – was coined by the authors of the study, Caleb Brown and Donald Henderson.

“The specimen comes from a geographic region of Alberta where we have not found horned dinosaurs before, so from the onset we knew it was important,” says Dr. Caleb Brown of the Royal Tyrrell Museum of Palaeontology in Alberta, Canada. “However, it was not until the specimen was being slowly prepared from the rocks in the laboratory that the full anatomy was uncovered, and the bizarre suite of characters revealed. Once it was prepared it was obviously a new species, and an unexpected one at that. Many horned-dinosaur researchers who visited the museum did a double take when they first saw it in the laboratory.”

The ‘new’ horned dino revealed a distinctive size and shape of its facial horns. The frill at the back of the skull has also brought further attention to it: it consisted of pentagonal plates, as if forming a central spike, as asserted by Brown, who described the whole as a “crown”. This feature is what inspired its name, which also includes a reference to the man who discovered the bones 10 years ago; though the scientists call the dinosaur by a nickname they have chosen for it: Hellboy.

Apart from its unique features, the dinosaur resembles the Triceratops in many aspects. But, its nose horn is taller than the latter’s, and the 2 horns above its eyes have been qualified as being “almost comically small”.

Relevance of discovery to the evolution of horned dinosaurs

Horned dinosaurs are categorised into two groups: the Chasmosaurines, and the Centrosaurines. The former come with a long frill, small horn over the nose, bigger horns above the eyes, while the latter have a short frill, large horn on the nose, and small ones over the eyes.

“This new species is a Chasmosaurine, but it has ornamentation more similar to Centrosaurines,” Brown says. “It also comes from a time period following the extinction of the Centrosaurines.”

According to the authors, the new discovery will help explain the evolution of dinosaurs. Brown says that this is the first instance demonstrating the evolutionary convergence in horned dinosaurs; the two groups have evolved similar features independently.

The scientists will now draw digital reconstructions of the skull. They also hope to find more samples of the Regaliceratops peterhewsi.

“This discovery also suggests that there are likely more horned dinosaurs out there that we just have not found yet, so we will also be looking for other new species,” Brown says.

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