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.
Subscribe to Journal
Get full journal access for 1 year
only $3.90 per issue
All prices are NET prices.
VAT will be added later in the checkout.
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Rent or Buy article
Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.
All prices are NET prices.
Dodson, P. & Currie, P. in The Dinosauria (eds Weishampel, D. B., Dodson, P. & Osmolska, H.) 593–618 (Univ. California Press, Berkeley, 1990).
Dodson, P. in Encyclopedia of Dinosaurs (eds Currie, P. J. & Padian, K.) 473–478 (Academic, San Diego, 1997).
Sereno, P. The origin and evolution of dinosaurs. Annu. Rev. Earth Planet. Sci. 25, 234–256 (1997).
Sereno, P. C. in The Age of Dinosaurs in Russia and Mongolia (eds Benton, M. J., Shishkin, M. A., Unwin, D. M. & Kurochkin, E. N.) 480–516 (Cambridge Univ. Press, New York, 2000).
Swisher, C. C. et al. Further support for a Cretaceous age for the feathered-dinosaur beds of Liaoning, China: new 40Ar/39Ar dating of the Yixian and Tuchengzi Formations. Chinese Sci. Bull. 46, 2009–2013 (2001).
Xu, X., Wang, X.-L. & You, H.-L. A primitive ornithopod form the Early Cretaceous Yixian Formation of Liaoning. Vertebrata PalAsiatica 38, 318–325 (2000).
Lo, C.-H., Chen, P.-J., Tsou, T.-Y., Sun, S.-S. & Lee, C. Y. 40Ar/39 laser single-grain and K–Ar dating of the Yixian Formation, NE China. Palaeoworld 11, 328–340 (1999).
Dong, Z.-M. & Azuma, Y. in Sino-Japanese Silk Road Dinosaur Expedition (ed. Dong, Z.-M.) 68–89 (China Ocean, Beijing, 1997).
Brown, B. & Schlaikjer, E. M. The structure and relationships of Protoceratops. Ann. NY Acad. Sci. 40, 133–266 (1940).
Sternberg, C. M. Complete skeleton of Leptoceratops gracilis Brown from the Upper Edmonton Member on Red Deer River, Alberta. Nat. Mus. Can. Bull. 123, 225–255 (1975).
Bohlin, B. Fossil Reptiles from Mongolia and Kansu (The Sino-Swedish Expedition, Statens Etnografiska Museum, Stockholm, 1953).
Zhao, X.-J., Cheng, Z.-W. & Xu, X. The earliest ceratopsian from the Tuchengzi Formation of Liaoning, China. J. Vert. Paleontol. 19, 681–691 (1999).
Maryanska, T. & Osmólska, H. Protoceratopsidae (Dinosauria) of Asia. Palaeontol. Polonica 33, 133–181 (1975).
Dodson, P. Quantitative aspects of relative growth and sexual dimorphism in Protoceratops. J. Paleontol. 50, 929–940 (1976).
Coombs, W. P. Juvenile specimens of the ornithischian dinosaur Psittacosaurus. Palaeontology 25, 89–107 (1982).
Sereno, P. C. in Dinosaur Systematics, Perspectives and Approaches (eds Carpenter, K. & Currie, P.) 203–210 (Cambridge Univ. Press, New York, 1990).
Chinnery, B. J. & Weishampel, D. B. Montanoceratops cerorhynchus (Dinosauria, Ceratopsia) and relationships among basal neoceratopsians. J. Vert. Paleontol. 18, 569–585 (1998).
Makovicky, P. J. in Mesozoic Terrestrial Life (eds Tanke, D. & Carpenter, K.) 243–262 (Univ. Indiana Press, Bloomington, 2001).
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.
The authors declare no competing financial interests.
About this article
Cite this article
Xu, X., Makovicky, P., Wang, Xl. et al. A ceratopsian dinosaur from China and the early evolution of Ceratopsia. Nature 416, 314–317 (2002). https://doi.org/10.1038/416314a
Biological Reviews (2021)
Tooth replacement in Manidens condorensis : baseline study to address the replacement pattern in dentitions of early ornithischians
Papers in Palaeontology (2021)
Science China Earth Sciences (2020)
Taxonomic review and phylogenetic inference elucidate the evolutionary history of Mesozoic Procercopidae, with new data from the Cretaceous Jehol Biota of NE China (Hemiptera, Cicadomorpha)
Journal of Zoological Systematics and Evolutionary Research (2020)
Historical Biology (2020)