Aquilops americanus: Oldest Horned Dinosaur From North America

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Reconstruction of Aquilops americanus in its environment. Image credit: Brian Engh / Raymond M. Alf Museum of Paleontology.

Scientists have discovered the fossil skull of a tiny horned dinosaur. The cat-sized dinosaur is the oldest known horned dinosaur from North America. It is named Aquilops americanus.

The artist’s reconstruction shows Aquilops in its environment in ancient Montana. The dinosaur skull, which was found in Montana, measures 84 mm long (about 3.3 inches). It features a beak-like structure and an elongated and pointed cavity over the creature’s cheek region. The Washington Post reports that researchers say Aquilops was about two feet long.

Aquilops americanus skull

Andrew Farke from Raymond M. Alf Museum of Paleontology says in a statement, “Aquilops lived nearly 20 million years before the next oldest horned dinosaur named from North America. Even so, we were surprised that it was more closely related to Asian animals than those from North America.”

Aquilops americanus restoration

Because Aquilops resembles some Asian dinosaurs the researchers say the finding supports a “complex set of migratory events for organisms between North America and Asia later in the Cretaceous.”

A research paper on Aquilops can be found here in PLoS One.

Photo: Andrew A. Farke

Artwork: Brian Engh, courtesy of Raymond M. Alf Museum of Paleontology. /2014