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a herbivorous neoceratopsian dinosaur from the Early Cretaceous of North America.
Pronunciation: ah-QUILL-ops
Meaning: Eagle face
Author/s: Farke et al. (2014)
Synonyms: None known
First Discovery: Montana, USA
Chart Position: 735

Aquilops americanus

Andy Farke named Aquilops in December 2014, but it's more Easter Bunny-sized than Santa's Reindeer-sized, and at roughly 106 million years old is the earliest "horn faced" dinosaur known from North America. Its next most elderly North American relative is 20 million years younger, and the iconic Triceratops is 20 million years younger than that. In fact, age and features-wise, Aquilops is closer to the ceratopsians of Asia (such as Liaoceratops and Auroraceratops) who, it's surmised, branched out into North America during the Early Cretaceous via a Beringian rather than European route (judging by the absence of Early Cretaceous European ceratopsians) then diversified before branching back again during the latest Cretaceous.

Although a ceratopsian or horn faced dinosaur, the horns on the face of Aquilops are conspicuous by their absence. But, funnily enough, a face full of horns isn't the only — or even most reliable — way to tell whether a critter belongs to this family. The rostral is a bone at the tip of the jaw that forms a beak and is an unmistakable feature of the dinosaurs known as horn faces, even the ones without horns. Aquilops has a beak that is strongly hooked and prompted the name "eagle face", but it also has a mysterious bony spike sticking out of it so perhaps "horn face" is appropriate after all. And speaking of things sticking out...

Aquilops was found way back in 1997 when a collector from a Richard Cifelli-led expedition noticed its teeth poking out of a rock and mistook them for the remains of an entirely different critter; Zephyrosaurus. But once free of the bone-obscuring matrix and its true affinities became apparent, paleontologists were cock-a-hoop. Montana's Cloverly Formation has been scoured to death and been generous in yielding multiple specimens of Tenontosaurus and Deinonychus. Ceratopsians, however, had proven elusive, and their remains may have been missed again, if not for the eagle-eyed Steve Madsen.

As well as being the oldest and thus far only confirmed ceratopsian from the Cretaceous-aged Cloverly, Aquilops is also the smallest ceratopsian, not just from North America but from anywhere. Its adolescent skull can sit comfortably in the palm of your hand, and would have been attached to a body no longer than 0.6 meters and less than two kilos in weight when fully grown.

(American eagle face)Etymology
Aquilops is derived from the Latin "aquila" (eagle) and the Greek "ops" (face), referring to the hooked beak at the front of its skull, used to snip plants during feeding. The species epithet, americanus, means "American" in Latin and refers to its status as the earliest unequivocal neoceratopsian in North America.
The remains of Aquilops were discovered at "Unit VII" in the Cloverly Formation, Carbon County, Montana, USA, by Scott Madsen during a National Geographic Society-funded, Richard Cifelli-led expedition in 1997. The holotype (OMNH 34557) is a partial skull with associated jaw bones and some unidentifiable fragments.
Era: Mesozoic
Epoch: Early Cretaceous
Stage: Albian
Age range: 108-104 mya
Est. max. length: 0.6 meters
Est. max. hip height: 0.2 meters
Est. max. weight: 1.8 Kg
Diet: Herbivore
• Farke AA, Maxwell WD, Cifelli RL and Wedel MJ (2014) "A Ceratopsian Dinosaur from the Lower Cretaceous of Western North America, and the Biogeography of Neoceratopsia". PLoS ONE 9(12): e112055.
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To cite this page:
Atkinson, L. "AQUILOPS :: from DinoChecker's dinosaur archive".
›. Web access: 16th Dec 2017.