When we think of ceratopsians, we usually envision famous genera such as spiky Styracosaurus, burly Pachyrhinosaurus, or, of course, the numero uno itself, Triceratops. But one of the most important ceratopsians of them all is the humble Liaoceratops. Hailing from the Liaoning Province of China and growing to no bigger than an average dog, it is the most basal known member of its family, and thus offers us a unique glimpse into how later animals like Triceratops evolved in the first place.
Here, courtesy of PNSO, is Hehe the Liaoceratops. She is sculpted in a walking stance with her head turned sharply to the right and her tail swaying to the left, giving her a length of 8 cm. Unlike the flat, utterly plain bases that certain figures from the first wave of miniatures are mounted on, Hehe’s is shaped like a rocky mound of earth.
The colours on Hehe are somewhat dull for the most part. She is yellowish-brown on top, beige along her flanks, and very pale beige on her underbelly. Dark brown stripes adorn her back, neck, and tail, and there are also white spots on the latter two. All this is contrasted by the electric blue used for Hehe’s eyes and the stripes on her head.
Hehe’s skin has a pebbled texture all over, which is in keeping with the few bits of fossilized ceratopsian skin that have been discovered thus far. Her hands and feet have the correct number of digits and her overall proportions also appear in keeping with the known fossils. Interestingly, while the accompanying poster depicts a Liaoceratops with filaments running down its tail similar to those on Psittacosaurus, Hehe boasts no such features on hers.
As a basal ceratopsian, Liaoceratops had only a small hint of a frill jutting from the back of its head. It also had fairly large jugal horns and a pair of tiny horns jutting out sideways just in front of its eyes. All of these physical features are well represented on Hehe. Such horns may have served a display function, but they would have been practically useless as defensive weapons against attack. Liaoceratops’ chief enemy in the Early Cretaceous forests was likely the vicious basal tyrannosauroid known as Dilong. And indeed, Hehe’s open mouth and wide eyes give her a distinctly apprehensive appearance, as though she senses danger approaching.
Given that small and early ceratopsians receive relatively little attention from toy companies compared to their bigger descendants, Hehe the Liaoceratops is a most welcome treat. Well-researched and beautifully sculpted, she is definitely a worthy addition to anyone’s collection.