A very small dinosaur that was discovered in Montana 17 years ago was officially named Aquilops Americanus this week, and with its 108 million year age – makes it the oldest dinosaur of its kind ever found in the United States.
The dinosaur which had an “eagle like” face, was a member of the horned dinosaur family that would have included the Triceratops – one of the most iconic dinosaurs of any period. While the name and description of the dinosaur sound intense – the truth is that the creature was like no larger than a rabbit. The skull of the creature would have comfortably fit in the palm of an adult hand.
While many fossils of later family members of the Aquilops – like the Triceratops – can be found with relative ease in the United States and Canada – very few of the Aquilops have been located to date. In fact, while new discoveries on this front are pretty regularly being made – it would be rare to find the rest of the Aquilops simply due to the tiny size of the creature. However, even with as little information as researchers currently have – and even given the fact that many have referred to the Aquilops as a “marginal player” in the world it lived in, they’re still eager to learn more about the animal and how it lived.
The beak, for example, is a very interesting feature on this particular dinosaur. Andrew Farke a paleontologist on the team noted that “The shape is unlike any other one in how strongly hooked it is,” which is something scientists are definitely taking note of. It would give better hints to how the animal lived, and possibly even what the animal might have eaten.
A good comparison was made for those who don’t quite understand just how different the Aquilops is from the Triceratops. “Imagine a Chihuahua beside a Great Dane,” said one member of the team, regarding how dissimilar the two creatures actually were.
The closest creatures to it would be the ceratopsians from Asia, according to researchers. This will create new conversation around the dinosaurs and how they might have interacted with the world around them as they continue to do more research on the subject.
One researcher on the team pointed out that Aquilops is going to help other researchers and scientists establish a history “and now that it’s been officially described, we’ll be able to more accurately talk about early horned dinosaur evolutionary history in North America.”