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Rare Tooth Find Suggests Horned Dinosaurs or Triceratops Made it in Eastern North America

May 25, 2017 05:55 PM EDT
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A rare tooth discovered in Mississippi is believed to be the first evidence of an animal related to Triceratops in North America. A fossilized tooth dated back as old as 66 to 68 million years.

The small fossil was discovered on a rock. It came from the two halves of continent previously believed to be separated by seaway that could be connected to the end of the age of dinosaurs.

"The fossil is small, only the size of a quarter, but it packs a ton of information," Andrew Farke, a paleontologist at the Raymond M. Alf Museum of Paleontology at The Webb Schools in Claremont, California, and one of the authors of the paper about the relic said in a statement. "The shape of this tooth, with its distinctive split root, is absolutely unique among dinosaurs."

The researchers believe that the rare tooth find is enough to conclude that the animal is very similar to Triceratops. The discovery of the tooth also made them suggest that Triceratops may have reached the eastern North America. Only Ceratopsids were known to have lived in western North America and Asia, according to a report. A split in the continent into eastern and western halves made it impossible for traveling ceratopsids to continue moving.

But due to lack of fossils and evidence researchers were unable to pinpoint when exactly the seaway disappeared allowing animals and dinosaurs to travel across North America. The rare tooth find suggests that the seaway already disappeared during the time of large dinosaurs like tyrannosaurs and triceratops before extinction 66 million years ago.
"I was excited because I knew it was a dinosaur tooth, and dinosaur fossils are rare discoveries east of the Mississippi River," George Phillips, paleontology curator at the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks' Museum of Natural Science, said in a statement.

The feature of the rare tooth led researchers to conclude that it belonged to a horned dinosaur species. This is a great find for the researchers since fossils of horned dinosaurs have never been discovered in eastern North America.

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