May 4th

1923 – Protoceratops andrewsi named and described

On this day in dinosaurs, a Gobi Desert legend was given an official name in the scientific literature for the first time. A year earlier, photographer James Blaine Shackelford discovered Protoceratops on assignment in Mongolia as part of the Central Asiatic Expeditions by the American Museum of Natural History. The leader of the expeditions, Roy Chapman Andrews, drummed up public support and private funds to search the Gobi for signs of early humans.

Protoceratops andrewsi / Wikimedia Commons

Andrews found far more fantastic creatures than primitive people. Protoceratops andrewsi was named in Andrews’ honor. The moniker means Andrews’ first horned face. It’s a reflection of Protoceratops being an early forerunner of the more robust ceratopsians (like Triceratops or Styracosaurus). Unlike its cousins, Protoceratops had a short frill and no horns.

Protoceratops is the most plentiful dinosaur found in the Gobi. It must have been a cornerstone species in its time and continues to captivate dinophiles almost a century after its discovery.

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