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Alf Museum scientist names oldest “horned” dinosaur

A fossil skull small enough to fit in the palm of your hand represents the oldest species of horned dinosaur named from North America. The discovery, announced by a multi-institution team including the Raymond M. Alf Museum of Paleontology at The Webb Schools, is 40 million years older than the iconic Triceratops.

The new dinosaur is named Aquilops americanus, meaning “American eagle face.” The name refers to the hook-like beak at the front of the skull, used to snip plants during feeding. It lived around 108 million years ago, in what is now southern Montana. Aquilops (pronounced “uh-QUILL-ops”) was about the size of a large crow, weighing around 3.5 pounds and measuring around two feet in total length. It belongs to a group called ceratopsians, better known as horned dinosaurs.

“Aquilops is the first fossil to show what the earliest horned dinosaurs in North America looked like,” said paleontologist Andrew Farke, Augustyn Family Curator at the Alf Museum and lead author on the scientific study. “Scattered teeth and bones from around the same time showed us that these animals were here, but not much else was known.”

The fossils of Aquilops, including a partial skull and lower jaw, was found on an expedition led by Richard Cifelli, curator of vertebrate paleontology at the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History, Norman, Oklahoma, and the original fossil is housed there.

The Alf Museum is located at 1175 W. Base Line Rd. on the Webb Schools campus. Hours are Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Satuday from 1 to 4 p.m. Admission is $6 per person, four years old and under for free. Cash and checks only. For information, call (909) 624-2798.