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Triceratops Cousin Thought to Be Island-Hopper
May 27, 2010

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Sometimes, we have to rewrite history, even if that history is very old and well-established.

Such is the case with triceratops, the three-horned dinosaur that is the stuff of legend and a source of endless factual fascination with dinosaur enthusiasts around the world. Turns out that coronosaurians, the group of dinosaurs that have horns on their heads, lived in Europe as well as in Asia and North America, according to a report released in the journal Nature.

This is significant because at the time that these giant beasts were living, Europe and Asia were as separated by water as Asia and North America are now. Back then, it was the Tethys Ocean standing in the way of a large land-based migration. How did the dinosaurs get to Europe? They went from island to island.

The species that has forced paleontologists to reassess their thinking on the domains of the horned-headed group of dinosaurs is Ajkaceratops, the skeleton of which has recently been found in what is now western Hungary. Named after a nearby town, Ajkaceratops lived from 100 million years ago to 65 million years ago. Unlike triceratops, however, this species was quite small, growing only to 3.25 feet in length. This was quite common for creatures living on land bordered by the Tethys Ocean, scientists said.

Exactly how these little horn-headed dinosaurs got from island to island is still a mystery. Was the water level shallow enough to allow walking on the sea floor, or did the little guys and gals have swimming abilities that are heretofore unknown? Or, did Ajkaceratops take a flying leap from one island to the next, creating a small earthquake each time it landed? Time will tell.



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