NEW MEXICO (KRQE) – Local scientists are offering a clearer picture of a dinosaur that roamed what is now North America, 82 million years ago. Fossils of the Menefeeceratops sealeyi were discovered near Cuba, New Mexico back in 1996.
Now, scientists from the New Mexico Museum of Natural History & Science have helped publish a new study, shedding light on its physiology and relationships with other dinosaurs. Researchers say it highlights the importance of our region in the evolution of the horned dinosaurs.
According to a news release, researchers say the fossil of the Menefeeceratops included multiple bones from one individual and was found by a research associate of NMMNHS in Cretaceous rocks of the Menefee Formation. The dinosaur is said to be related to but predates Triceratops.
While bones of the entire dinosaur weren’t recovered, a large amount of the skeleton was preserved including parts of the skull, lower jaws, forearm, hindlimbs, pelvis, vertebrae, and ribs. The bones reportedly indicate the animal was unique among dinosaur species and the fossils showed evidence of a minor injury or disease on at least one of the vertebrae at the base of its spinal column.
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Scientists say Menefeeceratops was a small member of the ceratopsid dinosaurs, growing between 13 and 15 feet in length, compared to Triceratops, which could reach 30 feet in length. Horned dinosaurs were typically large, rhinoceros-like herbivores that likely lived in groups or herds.
In comparing the dinosaur’s features with other known ceratopsid dinosaurs, researchers have determined that the menefeeceratops is at the base of the centrosaurine subfamily and suggests that the menefeeceratops is one of the oldest known centrosaurine ceratopsids and is one of the most basal evolutionary. In the press release, researchers say they hope more field work and collections in the area, as well as new analyses will turn up for fossils of the dinosaur and will help with a better understanding of the ancient ecosystem.