A dinosaur nicknamed “Hellboy” was described in a paper published on Thursday, although the species was unearthed more than a decade ago. Unlike most new discoveries, the three-horned specimen is not only spectacular, but also important from a scientific point of view: it is the first example of evolutionary convergence in horned dinosaurs.
The Regaliceratops peterhewsi received his much catchier nickname due to the difficulty the paleontologists had in extracting his skull from the ground. A strange resemblance to the Hellboy comic book character needs to be mentioned also.
Fun facts put aside, scientists argue the Regaliceratops represents the first undeniable piece of evidence that dinosaur groups that are not related to each other start developing similar features independently – a phenomenon otherwise known as “evolutionary convergence”. The Hellboy is part of the Chasmosaurine, a group remotely related to the far more famous Triceratops. Both groups have similar three-horn crowns on their heads and armored bone plates on their rear.
However, the Regaliceratops shares other traits with the Centrosaurines, a different group of horned dinosaurs that became extinct some two million years before the Hellboy starting roaming Earth. The paper, published in the journal Current Biology, describes its neck frill as having a “halo of large, pentagonal plates radiating outward, as well as a central spike,” making its crown look even more intimidating.
It fact, the researchers was so impressed by the royal appearance of the Hellboy that they decided to reflect this in his scientific name – “Regaliceratops” meaning “royal horned face” in Latin. The “peterhewsi” part was given in honor of Peter Hews, the geologist who unearthed the specimen.
According to Caleb M. Brown, lead author of the study, the Alberta region where Hellboy’s skull was found is not particularly known for horned dinosaur discoveries, so the team knew this one had to be something special. Digital reconstruction of the specimen is likely to reveal more details about its features. Brown hopes further discoveries will provide them with more examples of evolutionary convergence in dinosaurs.
Off-topic, Brown believed his scientific paper could serve a romantic purpose. “C.M.B. would specifically like to highlight the ongoing and unwavering support of Lorna O’Brien,” the researcher wrote, right before asking his girlfriend to marry him. She said yes.
Image Source: Calgary Herald