|The fossil skull of Spinops sternbergorum|
|An artists impression of Spinops sternbergorum|
They cleaned up the specimens and realised that the bones were from an undescribed species. They promptly gave it the name of Spinops sternbergorum (Sternberg's spine face) in reference to its facial spikes and in honour of its finders. When alive, it would have been a 2 tonne plant-eater with a large neck frill adorned with two backward facing projections, two smaller ones which curved forward towards the eyes and a series of small horns on the snout and above the eyes.
The small forward facing spikes are unique to Spinops. Yet the team identified that its closest relatives were Centrosaurus and Styracosaurus. The remains have also given insight into how the ornaments of these dinosaurs evolved. Originally, scientists thought that the structures only evolved once in the horned dinosaurs (properly called the ceratopsids). Yet the positions of the spines of Spinops show that they evolved independently, implying that the ornaments underwent multiple waves of evolutionary innovation.
'My colleagues and I were pleasantly surprised to find these fossils on the museum shelf' commented Farke, 'and even more astonished when we determined that they were a previously unknown species of dinosaur....I was amazed to learn the story behind these specimens, and how they went unstudied for so long. This animal is an important addition to our understanding of horned dinosaur diversity and evolution'