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A Late Cretaceous ceratopsian dinosaur from Europe with Asian affinities

Abstract

Ceratopsians (horned dinosaurs) represent a highly diverse and abundant radiation of non-avian dinosaurs1,2,3,4,5 known primarily from the Cretaceous period (65–145 million years ago). This radiation has been considered to be geographically limited to Asia and western North America1,2,3, with only controversial remains reported from other continents. Here we describe new ceratopsian cranial material from the Late Cretaceous of Iharkút, Hungary6, from a coronosaurian ceratopsian, Ajkaceratops kozmai. Ajkaceratops is most similar to ‘bagaceratopsids’ such as Bagaceratops and Magnirostris, previously known only from Late Cretaceous east Asia3,5,7,8. The new material unambiguously demonstrates that ceratopsians occupied Late Cretaceous Europe and, when considered with the recent discovery of possible leptoceratopsid teeth from Sweden9, indicates that the clade may have reached Europe on at least two independent occasions. European Late Cretaceous dinosaur faunas have been characterized as consisting of a mix of endemic ‘relictual’ taxa and ‘Gondwanan’ taxa, with typical Asian and North American groups largely absent10,11. Ajkaceratops demonstrates that this prevailing biogeographical hypothesis is overly simplified and requires reassessment. Iharkút was part of the western Tethyan archipelago, a tectonically complex series of island chains between Africa and Europe12, and the occurrence of a coronosaurian ceratopsian in this locality may represent an early Late Cretaceous ‘island-hopping’ dispersal across the Tethys Ocean.

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Figure 1: Anatomy of Ajkaceratops kozmai gen. et sp. nov.
Figure 2: Late Cretaceous palaeogeography and bagaceratopsid skull outlines.

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Acknowledgements

We thank L. Kocsis, P. Barrett, D. Norman, P. Dodson, J. Kirkland, P. Makovicky, S. Sampson, P. Godefroit, Z. Csiki, J. Pálfy and R. Sissons for discussion, R. Blakey for the use of the palaeogeographical reconstruction, P. Gulyás for preparation, J. Kirkland for unpublished data and U. Göhlich for logistical support. Research was supported by the Hungarian Scientific Research Fund (OTKA PD 73021) and the Hantken Foundation (A.Ő.), and a Humboldt Postdoctoral Fellowship (R.J.B.). This is MTA–MTM Paleo contribution 109.

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A.Ő. collected the material. A.Ő. and R.J.B. carried out the anatomical description. A.Ő. prepared the figures. All authors discussed the results and contributed to the manuscript.

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Correspondence to Attila Ősi.

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The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Supplementary information

Supplementary Information

This file contains Supplementary Information comprising: Locality data; Previous reports of ceratopsian dinosaurs from Europe and Ontogenetic stage of the known material of Ajkaceratops; Supplementary Figures S1-S3 with legends and References. (PDF 403 kb)

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Ősi, A., Butler, R. & Weishampel, D. A Late Cretaceous ceratopsian dinosaur from Europe with Asian affinities. Nature 465, 466–468 (2010). https://doi.org/10.1038/nature09019

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