[N] 2011 Nedoceratops’: An Example of a Transitional Morphology.
Scannella JB, Horner JR (2011) ‘Nedoceratops’: An Example of a Transitional Morphology. PLoS ONE 6(12): e28705. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0028705
The holotype and only specimen of the chasmosaurine ceratopsid dinosaur ‘Nedoceratops hatcheri’ has been the source of considerable taxonomic debate since its initial description. At times it has been referred to its own genus while at others it has been considered synonymous with the contemporaneous chasmosaurine Triceratops. Most recently, the debate has focused on whether the specimen represents an intermediate ontogenetic stage between typical young adult Triceratops and the proposed mature morphology, which was previously considered to represent a distinct genus, ‘Torosaurus’.
The only specimen of ‘Nedoceratops hatcheri’ was examined and the proposed diagnostic features of this taxon were compared with other chasmosaurine ceratopsids. Every suggested autapomorphy of ‘Nedoceratops’ is found in specimens of Triceratops. In this study, Triceratops includes the adult ‘Torosaurus’ morphology. The small parietal fenestra and elongate squamosals of Nedoceratops are consistent with a transition from a short, solid parietal-squamosal frill to an expanded, fenestrated condition. Objections to this hypothesis regarding the number of epiossifications of the frill and alternations of bone surface texture were explored through a combination of comparative osteology and osteohistology. The synonymy of the three taxa was further supported by these investigations.
The Triceratops, ‘Torosaurus’, and ‘Nedoceratops’ morphologies represent ontogenetic variation within a single genus of chasmosaurine: Triceratops. This study highlights how interpretations of dinosaur paleobiology, biodiversity, and systematics may be affected by ascribing ontogenetic and other intraspecific variation a taxonomic significance.