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Ajkaceratops kozmai

First species of horned dinosaur from Europe

Munich, 05/27/2010

A new species of horned dinosaur has been discovered in Hungary by a team of scientists including Dr Richard Butler of the Bayerische Staatssammlung für Paläontologie und Geologie as well as the LMU Munich. The pig-like Ajkaceratops kozmai was a small (1 metre in length) plant-eater with a parrot-like beak and probably a small horn on its nose. Ajkaceratops provides the best evidence so far indicating that horned dinosaurs inhabited Europe during the Late Cretaceous, approximately 85 million years ago. Before 2007, when a few isolated ceratopsian teeth were found in Sweden, the fossil record suggested that ceratopsians had never lived in Europe. Ajkaceratops is the first ceratopsian species to be named from Europe and changes our understanding of dinosaur ecosystems during the Late Cretaceous. Ajkaceratops is known from fossilised parts of the skull found in 2009 in a bauxite mine in the Bakony Mountains of western Hungary by teams led by Dr Attila Ősi of the Hungarian Natural History Museum (Budapest).

The name Ajkaceratops refers to the Hungarian town of Ajka, close to where the fossils were discovered. Ajkaceratops belongs to Ceratopsia, the ‘horned dinosaurs’, which include famous species such as Triceratops. Ceratopsians were plant-eating dinosaurs that were highly successful and diverse in Late Cretaceous Asia and North America, where they often formed large herds and were preyed upon by giant carnivorous dinosaurs such as Tyrannosaurus rex. During the Late Cretaceous Europe was separated by seas from North America and Asia. At this time, Europe was not a single continent, but was instead made up of a series of islands.

The species of dinosaur that lived on these Late Cretaceous European islands were generally unusual and different from those living in Asia and North America. This suggested that because Europe was isolated from other continents it had evolved highly distinctive dinosaur ecosystems. Surprisingly therefore, Ajkaceratops is very similar to ceratopsian dinosaurs such as Bagaceratops known from eastern Asia (Mongolia and China). “Ajkaceratops changes our idea of what dinosaur communities in Late Cretaceous Europe were like”, said Dr Butler, “It shows unexpected similarities to dinosaurs from Asia, and suggests that dinosaurs were somehow able to travel occasionally from Asia to the islands of Europe”.

Fieldwork continues in Hungary, and the research team hope that there are more surprises to come. A major goal is the discovery of more complete material of Ajkaceratops. “Late Cretaceous dinosaurs have been known from southern Europe for more than 100 years, yet completely unexpected discoveries are still possible”, said Dr Butler, “Our discovery demonstrates yet again the astonishing diversity of dinosaur ecosystems, and just how much remains to be discovered by palaeontologists”.


„A Late Cretaceous ceratopsian dinosaur from Europe with Asian affinities“
Attila Ösi, Richard J. Butler and David B. Weishampel
Nature online, Bd. 465, S. 466-468
Doi: 10.1038/nature09019


Dr. Richard Butler
Bavarian State Collection of Paleontology and Geology/LMU Munich
Phone: +49 (0) 89 / 2180 – 6619

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