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Dinosaur Discoveries of 2015

Dec 30, 2015 03:06 PM EST
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Several new dinosaurs were unearthed this year, revealing some interesting characteristics of these prehistoric animals. After discoveries that included the largest fossil site on Scotland's scenic Isle of Skye, to other digs that unearthed dinosaurs with unique horns, "sails," and long necks, paleontologists know much more about the large predators that dominated the Mesozoic Era, between 230 and 65 million years ago.

Sail-Backed Dinosaur Named Morelladon beltrani

A new dinosaur species with a toothy grin and the peculiar "sail" that we just mentioned was unearthed in northeastern Spain. Researchers say this strange formation on its back likely helped the dinosaur regulate its body temperature or store fat. The new find, made by researchers from the Evolutionary Biology Group at the National Distance Education University in Madrid, Spain, adds to a growing number of closely related medium to large-bodied dinosaurs found from this region and time period.

Parrot-Beaked Armored Dinosaur With Turtle Ears

Kunbarrasaurus is Australia's newest armored dinosaur discovered by researchers from the University of Queensland. This dinosaur was the size of a sheep and possessed a parrot-like beak, turtle-like ears turtle and crocodile-like skin - a mixture of animal characteristics that makes it truly unique from other dinosaurs.

Triceratops Cousin, Without Horns

This new species, subsequently dubbed Hualianceratops wucaiwanensis, was about the size of a spaniel and able to walk on its two hind legs. Researchers from George Washington University found this new species is a cousin of Triceratops, and while fossil evidence suggests the creature was an early "horned dinosaur," it did not actually boast horns.

Dinosaur Footprints In a Scottish Lagoon

Enormous dinosaur footprints made in what would have been the bottom of a shallow saltwater lagoon during the Middle Jurassic Period have been uncovered and they are shedding light on some of the largest animals to ever walk on land. Researchers from the University of Edinburgh say the footprints found on the Isle of Skye in Scotland were left in the wake of large plant-eating, long-necked sauropods some 170 million years ago. This find represents the largest dinosaur site discovered in the country to date.

The Dragon of Qiijiang

While the "Dragon of Qiijiang" was unearthed in 2006, its bones were analyzed and described just this year by paleontologists in China. It measured nearly 50 feet long and was practically all neck. Researchers say this dinosaur was a plant eater and most likely used its crane-like neck to reach leaves on the tops of tall trees.

"Hellboy" Dino With Bizarre Features

A new dinosaur dubbed "Hellboy" - officially named Regaliceratops peterhewsi - reportedly sports bizarre features, including a large shield-like frill at the back of its skull, a taller nose horn, and two "comically small" horns over its eyes. This new dinosaur dates to about 70 million years and is a close relative of the iconic Triceratops.

Isolated "Lost Continent" Dinosaur

Remains of a rare dog-sized, horned dinosaur belonging to the herbivorous group known as Ceratopsia sheds light on how North America was divided by a shallow body of water known as the Western Interior Seaway during the Late Cretaceous. When analyzing jaw fragments, researchers found a strange twist that caused the teeth to curve downward and outwards in a beak shape. Additionally, the specimen's jaw was more slender than that of Ceratopsia found in western North America, suggesting these dinosaurs had a different diet than their western relatives. 

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-Follow Samantha on Twitter @Sam_Ashley13

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