New dinosaur discovered by volunteers at Arizona Museum of Natural History

April 12, 2021 at 10:43 am

Volunteers and Citizen Scientists of the Arizona Museum of Natural History (AzMNH) were recently involved in an exciting new discovery, unearthing a new species of dinosaur from the late Cretaceous.

Meet Ornatops incantatus! who lived around 79 million years ago. The name means "enchanted ornate face" which refers to the fantastic crest that is sported on the bridge of its nose. Ornatops is a hadrosaur, a large, duck-billed, plant-eating dinosaur. Features on the skull and brain case identify this dinosaur as a particular type of hadrosaur called a brachylophosaur. This is actually the earliest brachylophosaur found.

The new creature was described by paleontologists Andrew T. McDonald, Douglas G. Wolfe, Elizabether A. Freedman Fowler and Terry A. Gates, in the open access journal PeerJ:

The field research involved a collaboration of the Western Science Center, Zuni Dinosaur Institute for Geosciences, and Southwest Paleontological Society (SPS). SPS is a partner organization of the Arizona Museum of Natural History, whose Citizen Scientists are also Volunteers of the museum.

"As one of the largest dinosaurs in its habitat, Ornatops would have been a major component of its ecosystem. Our ongoing work seeks to understand that ecosystem, how it changed through time, and how it slots into the rich and majestic history of dinosaur evolution in North America," Western Science Center Curator Dr. Andrew McDonald said.

The discovery was made by Derek Hoffman, a member of SPS, and Sherman Mohler, a foundation board member of the Arizona Museum of Natural History and President of SPS.

"Derek (Hoffman) and I were fortunate that Doug Wolfe and Dr Andrew McDonald had dropped the SPS team into a fossil rich location, but of course most of what you usually find are bits and scraps. Then there is that rare moment when you turn a corner to look at the side of a small hill or "hoodoo", and you see that beautiful patina of fossilized bone with an elegant curve to it, and you just know you found cranial (skull) material, and man oh man, you just know it's going to be a good day!" SPS Director Sherman Mohler said.

Volunteers working closely with professional scientists make these discoveries possible and their continued work here is really filling out the picture of the Late Cretaceous ecosystem in western North America.

"Citizen science is an incredible benefit to organizations like ours. Not only is it a wonderful engagement of our community, but it brings together an incredible workforce of people. Enthusiasts with likeminded interests, and a variety of expertise to achieve things that we could not conceive of otherwise," Arizona Museum of Natural History Acting Director Alison Stoltman said.

"As a citizen, not much of a scientist, I'm in awe to help in any small way to bring to life our planets' past history; to hold in my hand the evidence of life millions to billions years old. The timelessness of our earth is awe inspiring. The link of our past to our present interconnects us with knowledge and guidance to preserve and protect this amazing place we humans call home," SPS member Nancy Ebbinghaus said.

About Arizona Museum of Natural History
Arizona Museum of Natural History
53 North Macdonald, Mesa
(480) 644-2230
Hours of Operation: Thursday-Saturday 10am-4pm, and Sunday 12pm-4pm

Nestled in the heart of downtown Mesa, the Arizona Museum of Natural History is the premier natural history museum of Arizona. A "must see" for dinosaur lovers, the main attraction is Dinosaur Mountain, with animatronic dinosaurs, a 3-story indoor waterfall and flash flood that happens every 30 minutes. If dinosaurs are not your interest then pan for gold, take a stroll through a mock village of our Ancestral Sonoran Desert People, or discover Arizona's connections to civilizations further afield like the Maya or Aztec.

The Arizona Museum of Natural History has developed strict COIVD protocols such as social distancing measures, mask wearing and increased sanitation procedures.

For more information on the Arizona Museum of Natural History please visit

Arizona Museum of Natural History
Contact: Alison Stoltman
Tel. 480-644-4040 Cell. 480 229 0868

Contact (for the discovery and Southwest Paleontology Society): Sherman Mohler
Tel: 602-206-0476

Contact (for the paleontologist): Doug Wolfe
Tel: 480.202.8362