Why is this new, curly-horned dinosaur named Wendy?

Scientists uncover new remains of an ancient dinosaur, and decide to celebrate in a unique way.

Danielle Dufault/Handout via Reuters
The Wendiceratops pinhornenis dinosaur is seen in a life reconstruction illustration by Danielle Dufault.

After unearthing a dinosaur that stalked the earth over 79 million years ago, Canadian fossil hunter Wendy Sloboda appropriately named the beast after herself, dubbing the two-ton behemoth Wendiceratops pinhornensis, and getting a tattoo of the ancient animal to commemorate the find.

"Wendiceratops is a truly eye-catching dinosaur," paleontologist David Evans of the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto told Reuters. "With its array of gnarly horns curling forward off the back of its frill and its tall nose horn, it is without a doubt one of the most highly ornamented members of the horned dinosaur family, which is well-known for their spiky skulls." 

The fossil was discovered in the remote wilderness of southern Alberta, in a bonebed south of the Milk River. This remote region borders Dinosaur Provincial Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, that is rich in dinosaur fossils. Ms. Sloboda discovered the bonebed in 2010, and the bones were collected between 2011 and 2014.

So far the fossils of three adults and one juvenile Wendiceratops have been found and identified, with the adults measuring over 20 feet in length. Based on the age of the bones, it appears that Wendy lived during the Cretaceous Period, the same period that the Triceratops horridus lived in. While weighing more than a 2014 Porsche 911 is no joking matter, Wendy’s size is a half to a third of that of her three-horned cousin, which weighed in at four to six tons.

At the time when Wendy roamed Canada, an inland sea cut across North America, creating a rich coastal plain with plenty of plants for the dinosaur to cut off with its parrot-like mouth.

But why the frills? "We suspect that the skull ornamentation may have been a visual cue that allowed these animals to recognize each other over a long distance," said Cleveland Museum of Natural History paleontologist Michael Ryan.

The Triceratops also sported a frilled collar behind its head. Scientists are unsure as to what purpose the six-foot frill served, but speculate that the bone collar may have protected the neck of the dinosaur, may have played a role in attracting mates similar to a peacock’s plumage, or may have helped regulate the dinosaur’s internal body temperature.

The discovery of Wendy, along with the research and findings, was published Wednesday in the scientific journal PLOS ONE.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.