AVACERATOPS (AYV-ah-SAIR-ah-tops)

Period: Late Cretaceous

Order, Suborder, Family: Ornithischia, Marginocephalia, Ceratopsidae

Location: North America (United States)

Length: 7 1/2 feet (2.3 meters)

Avaceratops lammersi was a small ceratopsid known from a single skeleton found in the Judith River Formation of Montana in 1981. The bones of Avaceratops were scattered in a fossil stream. After death, the animal was probably washed down the stream and buried in a sand bar. This little dinosaur was named by Peter Dodson, in honor of Ava Cole. Her husband Eddy found the skeleton. The species is named for the Lammers family, who own the ranch where Avaceratops was found. Its skeleton is on display at the Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia.

Avaceratops was only about seven and a half feet long, and some paleontologists believe it may have been a juvenile. Others think it was an adult, and that Avaceratops may have been a small ceratopsid. Although only slightly larger than Protoceratops, Avaceratops appears to have had a moderately heavy build like its larger ceratopsid relatives. Unfortunately, many of the pieces of the skeleton are missing.

Avaceratops had a short, deep snout and a thick, powerful lower jaw. The neck frill appears to have been solid. Since the top of the skull is missing, it is not known what kind of horns it had, or if it had any. Most of its closest relatives, including Centrosaurus, Styracosaurus, and Brachyceratops, had a large nasal horn and no brow horns, so Avaceratops may have looked similar.

Because of its small size, Avaceratops probably ate low vegetation, which would have been mostly angiosperms (the flowering plants). Many other animals lived alongside Avaceratops, including hadrosaurs, pachycephalosaurs, ankylosaurs, hypsilophodontids, dromaeosaurs, crocodilians, turtles, champsosaurs, and small mammals.