Fossilized but still funky, dinosaur gets offbeat name

A fossil of the Mojoceratops. A fossil of the Mojoceratops. (Nicholas Longrich)
By Carolyn Y. Johnson
Globe Staff / July 9, 2010

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A Yale University researcher has discovered a horned dinosaur about the size of a small rhinoceros with an ostentatious heart-shaped frill that even Lady Gaga might envy.

He dubbed it Mojoceratops.

“A funky dinosaur needs a funky name,’’ said Nicholas Longrich, a postdoctoral associate at Yale who devised the name over beers after a long day digging fossils in the field. “It was a joke. . . . But we kind of all stopped and said, ‘Hey, wait a minute.’ It had a good ring to it.’’

The Mojoceratops was hiding in plain sight for years. Longrich was studying a dinosaur called a Chasmosaurus from museum fossil specimens when he realized that he was looking at a mishmash of two species.

Mojoceratops lived 75 million years ago in what is Canada today and probably survived for only about 1 million years.

The discovery was published this month in the Journal of Paleontology. Longrich said in an interview yesterday that initially he was a little uncertain whether the paleontology community would accept the name, but the main objections he got were scientific. “They gave me heck about the way I was splitting up the species, and not the name,’’ Longrich said.

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