New dinosaur named for spectacular frill

Posted by Emma Woollacott

A newly discovered dinosaur species with the most dramatic frill round its head ever found has been dubbed Mojoceratops.

After discovering the fossil, Nicholas Longrich was sharing a beer with fellow paleontologists, and blurted out the first thing that came into his head.

"It was just a joke, but then everyone stopped and looked at each other and said, ‘Wait — that actually sounds cool,'" said Longrich, a postdoctoral associate at Yale University. "I tried to come up with serious names after that, but Mojoceratops just sort of stuck."

A plant eater about the size of a hippo, Mojoceratops appeared about 75 million years ago during the Late Cretaceous — 10 million years earlier than its well-known cousin, the Triceratops. It sported an even more flamboyant, heart-shaped frill on its head.

While all ceratopsids have frills on the tops of their skulls, "Mojoceratops is the most ostentatious," Longrich said, adding that their frill is also the most heart-shaped of all the related species.

Mojoceratops, which is related to another dinosaur in Texas, is found only in Canada's Alberta and Saskatchewan provinces. It was short-lived, surviving for only about a million years. All in all, Longrich turned up eight partial skulls.

After coming up with the unusual name, Longrich discovered that it was more appropriate than he had realised.

"I discovered that ‘mojo' is an early 20th-century African-American term meaning a magic charm or talisman, often used to attract members of the opposite sex," he says. "This dinosaur probably used its frill to attract mates, so the name made sense."