for National Geographic News
A giant new species of crested duck-billed dinosaur has been unearthed in Mexico, researchers say.
The discovery of the 72-million-year-old fossil adds to the rich gallery of dinosaurs that scientists now know lived in western North America during the latter part of the dinosaur era.
The new species was dubbed Velafrons coahuilensis in honor of the state of Coahuila in north-central Mexico where the fossil was found (see map).
Reaching lengths up to 35 feet (10.5 meters) long, the newfound dino was a plant-eater belonging to a group of duck-billed dinosaurs, or hadrosaurs, that roamed the region together with carnivores like tyrannosaurs and velociraptors.
"Specimens of this group of dinosaurs are some of the most common found in Coahuila, supporting the hypothesis that duckbills were one of the favorite foods for tyrannosaurs," said Terry Gates, a paleontologist with the Utah Museum of Natural History in Salt Lake City.
The specimen consists of a mostly complete skull with a bony crest on its forehead, and a partial skeleton.
The animal was a youngster at the time of death, scientists say, and was about 25 feet (7.5 meters) long.
Velafrons, which means "sailed forehead" in Latin and Spanish, represents the first occurrence of a crested duck-billed dinosaur in this region of North America.
The discovery was announced in the December edition of the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology.
America's Inland Sea
The dinosaur record from Mexico has been relatively sparse—the new species is one of the first dinosaurs from that country to be identified.
But "Mexico, like other regions of Western [North] America, was home to a diversity of dinosaurs large and small, from predatory tyrannosaurs, which were the top carnivores, to a range of horned and duck-billed herbivores, to a variety of smaller denizens," said Scott Sampson, a Utah Museum of Natural History paleontologist and co-author of the study.
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