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Achelousaurus
Fossil range: Late Cretaceous
Achelousaurus BW
Scientific classification

Class

Sauropsida

Superorder

Dinosauria

Order

Ornithischia

Suborder

Marginocephalia

Superfamily

Ceratopsia

Family

Ceratopsidae

Subfamily

Centrosaurinae

Genus

Achelousaurus
Sampson, 1995

Species

Achelousaurus[1] ("Achelous's lizard") is a genus of centrosaurine ceratopsid dinosaur from the Late Cretaceous Period of what is now North America. It was a quadrupedal herbivore with a parrot-like beak, a rough boss (raised bony area) on the snout and two more behind the eyes, and two horns on the end of its long bony neck frill. With a total body length of 6 meters (20 feet), Achelousaurus was a medium-sized ceratopsian.

The genus and the one named species (A. horneri) were both named by paleontologist Scott Sampson in 1995. The specific name honors Jack Horner, an influential American paleontologist famous for his Montana dinosaur discoveries. The generic name Achelousaurus is a complex reference to Greek mythology. Achelous, an important Greek river deity, had one of his horns torn off by Hercules, in a mythological fight with the legendary hero. All three known skulls of Achelousaurus have rough bosses in the same places where other ceratopsians had horns, giving it the appearance of having had its horns ripped off. Achelous was also celebrated for his shapeshifting ability, just as Achelousaurus appears to combine features of other ceratopsian dinosaurs.

Early reports suggested that Achelousaurus represented a transitional form between ceratopsians with modified horns like Einiosaurus (with which A. horneri shares two horns on the end of the frill), and the derived, hornless Pachyrhinosaurus (Horner et al., 1992). While they may or may not form a direct line of descent, all three of these species are at least closely related, and are often united in the tribe Pachyrhinosaurini, inside the subfamily Centrosaurinae and the family Ceratopsidae (Sampson, 1995; Dodson et al., 2004).

Achelousaurus is known from the U.S. state of Montana, in the Two Medicine Formation, which preserves sediments dated from the Campanian stage of the Late Cretaceous Period, between 83 and 74 million years ago. Achelousaurus was found in the highest levels of the formation, so it is probably closer to the end of that timeframe. Other dinosaurs found in this formation include Daspletosaurus, Bambiraptor, Euoplocephalus, Maiasaura, and Einiosaurus.

Scientists have so far recovered three skulls and some postcranial material from the Two Medicine, all housed at the Museum of the Rockies in Bozeman, Montana. The skull of a full-grown Achelousaurus (including the frill horns) is over 5 feet (1.6 meters) long.

DescriptionEdit

They were quadrupedal herbivores with parrot-like beaks, rough bosses (raised bony areas) on their snouts and one pair behind their eyes, and a pair of horns on the end of their long bony frills. With body lengths of up to six meters (20 feet) and a weight of three tonnes,[3] Achelousaurus were medium-sized ceratopsians.

History od discoveryEdit

The genus and the one named species (A. horneri) were both named by paleontologist Scott Sampson in 1995. The specific name honors Jack Horner, an influential American paleontologist famous for his Montana dinosaur discoveries, who in 1987 headed the team that excavated the holotype skull of Achelousaurus, MOR 485. The generic name Achelousaurus is a complex reference to Greek mythology. Achelous, an important Greek river deity, had one of his horns torn off by Hercules, in a mythological fight with the legendary hero. All three known skulls of Achelousaurus have rough bosses in the same places where other ceratopsians have horns, giving them the appearance of having had the horns ripped off. Achelous was also celebrated for his shapeshifting ability, just as Achelousaurus appear to combine features of other ceratopsian dinosaurs.

Achelousaurus horneri are known from the U.S. state of Montana, in the Two Medicine Formation, which preserves sediments dated from the Campanian stage of the Late Cretaceous Period, between 83 and 74 million years ago. Achelousaurus specimens are found in the highest levels of the formation, probably closer to the end of that timeframe, 74 mya.[4] Contemporary dinosaur species included Prosaurolophus blackfeetensis, Scolosaurus cutleri, Hypacrosaurus stebingeri, Einiosaurus procurvicornis, and tyrannosaurids of uncertain classification.

Scientists have so far recovered three skulls and some postcranial material from the Two Medicine, all housed at the Museum of the Rockies in Bozeman, Montana. The skull of a full-grown Achelousaurus (including the frill horns) is over 5 feet (1.6 meters) long.

ClassificationEdit

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ "Since the scientific name Achelousaurus was formed by arbitrarily combining Achelous and saurus instead of using the stem-form Achelo-, the "u" needs to be pronounced."[1]


  • Dodson, P., Forster, C.A., & Sampson, S.D. 2004. Ceratopsidae. In Weishampel, D.B., Dodson, P. & Osmolska, H. (Eds.) The Dinosauria (2nd Edition). Berkeley: University of California Press. Pp. 494-513.
  • Horner, J.R., Varricchio, D.J. & Goodwin, M.B. 1992. Marine transgressions and the evolution of Cretaceous dinosaurs. Nature 358: 59-61.
  • Sampson, S.D. 1995. Two new horned dinosaurs from the Upper Cretaceous Two Medicine Formation of Montana; with a phylogenetic analysis of the Centrosaurinae (Ornithischia: Ceratopsidae). Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology 15(4): 743-760.

External linksEdit

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