The Thrill of Discovery: Meet Mercury’s Horned Face Dinosaur
Canada’s prehistoric past is often overlooked, when in fact, it is a land of great discovery and excitement for dinosaur lovers across the globe. Did you know Canada is in the top five countries for discovering dinosaur fossils? Join us as we discover our nation’s unknown past with paleoartist Dr. Julius Csotonyi, and palaeontologist Dr. François Therrien.
Imagine the thrill and excitement of unearthing a new prehistoric species that has been hiding under our feet for more than 76 million years. Meet the Mercuriceratops gemini, also known as Mercury’s Horned Face Dinosaur. Aptly named after Mercury – the Roman messenger to the gods who is depicted with wings on his helmet – this ceratopsian is one of the newest members of Canada’s dinosaur family as it was only unveiled in 2014.
Today, we are bringing it to life through our Discovering Dinosaurs coin series. The coin was designed by Canadian paleoartist Dr. Julius Csotonyi and features the fossilized skull of the Mercuriceratops gemini. Impressively, the team were able to build the entire design of the dinosaur around the discovery of two bones (the same skull bone) from two different individuals. The coin is made with black rhodium plating and beneath is an engraved texture that is representative of the rock formation in Alberta’s Dinosaur Provincial Park where the key fossil fragment was found. The obverse also features this rich rhodium plating behind the effigy of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II by Susanna Blunt.
Dr. François Therrien is a palaeontologist at the Royal Tyrrell Museum of Palaeontology who consulted with the paleoartist to insure that the illustration of Mercuriceratops was scientifically accurate. Dr. Therrien’s research consists of looking beyond the bones to reconstruct what dinosaurs were doing while they were alive. In essence, he tells the prehistoric creature’s story. The Mercuriceratops gemini is one of the newest horned dinosaur species discovered in Canada. We know that it was a herbivore that walked on all fours and weighed a little more than a rhinoceros. It had a long snout and a large shield with a parrot beak.
In horned dinosaurs, it is often the shape of the bones of the frill that allows paleontologists to recognize different species. In the case of Mercuriceratops, paleontologists found a bone of the frill that was unlike any that had been previously discovered in other species. Once discovered, they knew they were dealing with a brand new species, even though they knew nothing else about the rest of the dinosaur. This dinosaur is particularly interesting as it is found in both Canada and the US, suggesting that it lived in both countries, which is unlike the ‘’habitual’ behavior of dinosaurs at that time. Dr. Therrien thinks Mercuriceratops was a rare animal as only two bones have ever been discovered.
According to experts like Dr. Therrien and Dr. Julius Csotonyi, there are still many dinosaur species that haven’t yet been uncovered across Canada. So next time you’re roaming the wilderness, be sure to keep an eye out. Who knows, you could be standing on the discovery of an entirely new species of dinosaur.