The Sideshow

New species of dinosaur discovered in museum basement

Eric Pfeiffer
The Sideshow

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The Spinops sternbergoru

Paleontologists are used to digging deep for dinosaur remains--but to turn up a newly discovered dinosaur species, they had to dig no deeper than the basement of a London museum.

London's Natural History Museum is a place of constant discovery--for school field trips and science buffs. But this particular discovery, officially known as Spinops sternbergorum, took place in a storage area in the museum's basement.

"I knew right away that these fossils were something unusual, and it was very exciting to learn about their convoluted history," said Dr Andrew Farke, who led the research team.

"Here we have not just one, but multiple individuals of the same species, so we're confident that it's not just an odd example of a previously known species."

The Spinops is about the size of a large bull, with a beak shaped mouth, weighing in at 1 ton and measuring nearly 20 feet in length.

The remains of the Spinops, which comes from the same herbivore family as the Triceratops, were actually discovered in a quarry known as the "bone bed" in Alberta, Canada in 1916. However, A. Smith Woodward, the former Museum Keeper of Geology didn't think much of the find, describing it as "nothing but rubbish" and the remains were simply transferred into storage.

'This discovery demonstrates that new dinosaurs are found in museum collections and laboratories almost as frequently as in the field,' said Dr Paul Barrett, palaeontologist at the Natural History Museum.

It wasn't until Dr. Farke and his team reexamined the remains that they realized a new species of dinosaur had been rediscovered after nearly 100 years.

"This discovery is significant because it adds to our knowledge of horned dinosaur diversity in the Late Cretaceous," said Dr. Michael Ryan, curator of vertebrate paleontology at The Cleveland Museum of Natural History. "Natural selection appears to have acted exclusively on the ornamentation on the head in these dinosaurs such that new species are appearing at a very high rate in this group—less than one-half million years."

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