Dino Grew 'Wings'— on Its Head

Mercuriceratops gemini used protrusions to attract mates

By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff

Posted Jun 19, 2014 6:58 AM CDT

(Newser) – If you thought the "Pinocchio Rex" looked a bit odd, get a load of this dinosaur: Scientists have discovered a Triceratops relative, the smaller Mercuriceratops gemini, which sported bony "wings" on either side of its head. The fact that fossil fragments showing butterfly-like protrusions from the skull were found in Montana and Alberta pointed to the existence of an unknown species, the Los Angeles Times reports. Named after the Roman god Mercury, whose helmet was adorned with wings on either side, the 2-ton dinosaur lived about 77 million years ago during the late Cretaceous period.

"We would never have predicted this from our experience with working on horned dinosaurs," says a researcher, who compares the wings on the dino's bony frill to tail fins on a 1950s car. "It's modifying an element of the skull that’s never been modified before." So what purpose did the wings have? They were likely used for protection and to attract mates, Science World Report notes. The Times adds "it's possible that female preferences may have been driving natural selection in male headgear." (Another recent dinosaur find: they were neither cold-blooded or warm-blooded.)

Artist's illustration of the Mercuriceratops gemini.   (Danielle Dufault)
Mercuriceratops gemini.   (Danielle Dufault)
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