This is an artist’s conception of the newly described Menefeeceratops sealeyi, a dinosaur whose fossils were discovered near Cuba, N.M. Courtesy illustration.

Scientists at the New Mexico Museum of Natural History & Science and other institutions announced a newly described horned dinosaur discovered near Cuba.
The dinosaur roamed the area 82 million years ago as one of the earliest ceratopsid species, a group known as horned or frilled dinosaurs. Researchers published their find in the journal PalZ.
The Menefeeceratops sealeyi dinosaur adds important information to scientists’ understanding of the evolution of ceratopsid dinosaurs. In particular, the discovery sheds light on the centrosaurine subfamily of horned dinosaurs, of which Menefeeceratops is believed to be the oldest member.
Its remains offer a clearer picture of the group’s evolutionary path before it went extinct at the end of the Cretaceous Period.
The study was published by Sebastian Dalman, a research associate of the NMMNHS, as well as curator Spencer G. Lucas and research associate Asher Lichtig. Steven Jasinski of the State Museum of Pennsylvania and Peter Dodson of the University of Pennsylvania completed the research team.
The fossil specimen, which included multiple bones from one individual, was discovered in 1996 by Paul Sealey, a research associate at the museum, in Cretaceous rocks of the Menefee Formation. A field crew collected the specimen, and Tom Williamson of the museum briefly described it the following year.
Since then, additional research on other ceratopsid dinosaurs and further preparation of the specimen have shed new light on the fossils. Based on the latest investigations, researchers determined the fossils represent a new species.
The genus name Menefeeceratops refers to the rock formation in which it was discovered and to the group of which the species is a part, Ceratopsidae. The species name sealeyi honors Sealey.
Menefeeceratops is related to but predates Triceratops, another ceratopsid dinosaur. However, Menefeeceratops was a relatively small member of the group, growing between 13 and 15 feet long, compared to Triceratops, which could reach 30 feet long.
Horned dinosaurs were generally large, rhinoceros-like herbivores that likely lived in groups. They were significant members of Late Cretaceous ecosystems in North America.
Although bones of the entire dinosaur were not recovered, a significant amount of the skeleton was preserved, including parts of the skull and lower jaws, forearm, hind limbs, pelvis, vertebrae and ribs.
These bones not only show the animal is unique among known dinosaur species, but also provide additional clues to its life history. For example, the fossils show evidence of a potential pathology, resulting from a minor injury or disease, on at least one of the vertebrae near the base of the spinal column.
Some of the key features that distinguish Menefeeceratops from other horned dinosaurs involve the bone that makes up the sides of the dinosaur’s frill, known as the squamosal. While less ornate than those of some other ceratopsids, Menefeeceratops’ squamosal has a distinct pattern of concave and convex parts.
Comparing features of Menefeeceratops with other known ceratopsid dinosaurs helped the research team trace its evolutionary relationships. Their analysis places Menefeeceratops sealeyi at the base of the evolutionary tree of the centrosaurine subfamily.
“Menefeeceratops shows us just how much we still have to learn about the horned dinosaurs of western North America,” said Lucas. “The oldest centrosaur, Menefeeceratops indicates that the Southwest region of the United States was an important place in the evolution of the centrosaurs. And, the recognition of this new centrosaur adds to a growing diversity of centrosaurs, and thus provides impetus to further efforts to discover fossils of these kinds of dinosaurs.”

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