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A ceratopsian dinosaur from China and the early evolution of Ceratopsia


Ceratopsians (horned dinosaurs) represent one of the last and the most diverse radiations of non-avian dinosaurs1,2,3,4. Although recent systematic work unanimously supports a basal division of Ceratopsia into parrot-like psittacosaurids and frilled neoceratopsians, the early evolution of the group remains poorly understood, mainly owing to its incomplete early fossil record. Here we describe a primitive ceratopsian from China. Cladistic analysis posits this new species as the most basal neoceratopsian. This new taxon demonstrates that some neoceratopsian characters evolved in a more incremental fashion than previously known and also implies mosaic evolution of characters early in ceratopsian history.

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Figure 1: Holotype skull of the ceratopsian Liaoceratops yanzigouensis (IVPP V12738) in lateral (a, b), dorsal (c) and ventral (d) views.
Figure 2: Skull of the juvenile specimen referred to Liaoceratops yanzigouensis (IVPP V12633) in lateral (a, c) and dorsal (b) views.
Figure 3: Phylogenetic relationships among ceratopsians.


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We thank Z.-H. Zhou for help during the course of the work, members of the Liaoxi expedition of the IVPP for help in the field, Y.-L. Huo, F.-L. Wang and H.-J. Wang for preparing the specimens, and R.-S. Li for drawings. This work was supported by the Special Funds for Major State Basic Research Projects of China, the National Geographic Society of USA, the Chinese Natural Science Foundation, the Chinese Academy of Sciences and The Field Museum.

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Correspondence to Xing Xu.

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Xu, X., Makovicky, P., Wang, Xl. et al. A ceratopsian dinosaur from China and the early evolution of Ceratopsia. Nature 416, 314–317 (2002).

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