Serendipaceratops (Science and Nature Pty Ltd.)

3.8 (5 votes)

Review and images by Aldon Spencer, edited by Suspsy

What Australian dinosaur has something in common with Horace Walpole and Arthur C. Clarke? The answer is Serendipaceratops arthurcclarkei. This dubious dinosaur is based upon a single ulna discovered by Tom Rich and Patricia Vickers-Rich in 1993 while digging at Dinosaur Cove, an Early Cretaceous sediment belonging to the Wonthaggi formation near Kilcunda, Victoria, Australia.

Originally, National Geographic Magazine incorrectly reported that the fossil was named from research done by the Riches, when in fact, they had given the arm bone to another paleontologist, Dr. Dale Russell, who at that time was working at the Canadian Museum of Nature in Ottawa, Ontario. Dr. Russell, in his studies, compared the ulna to that of the Albertan ceratopsian Leptoceratops gracilis, and noticed a striking resemblance between the two. Certain that the fossil that the Riches had uncovered was indeed that of a leptoceratopsid, he reported his finding to the Riches, who, in 2003, decided to name the dinosaur after their friend, Arthur C. Clarke, the famous science fiction author.

In 2010, a paleontologist named Federico Angolin did a study of the ulna while researching the dinosaur fauna found in Australia and New Zealand. He found that it didn’t resemble the forearm of a ceratopsian any more than it resembled the ulna of any other ornithischian quadruped. This refuted Dr. Russell’s findings and gave the fossil the unfortunate title of nomen dubium. But then in 2014, Tom Rich published a study in which he proposed that the ulna did indeed possess characteristics that placed it in the clad of the ceratopsians. So there you have it. You may decide if it is a true ceratopsian or not.

In any event, the Australian company Nature and Science, Pty Ltd. seems to think it is a ceratopsian and has even produced a small toy of Serendipaceratops as part of their signature line of figures, “Animals of Australia Realistic Toy Replicas.” The toy is quite small, measuring 6.35 cm in length, but it does possess a certain amount of detail for its size. The general morphology is that of a leptoceratopsid. However, I do think that the forelimbs are a bit stocky.

The rest of the animal is basically correct, with four digits on both the manus and hind feet and a thick tail. The head possesses the small jugal “horns” that are associated with this type of dinosaur, along with a small frill at the back of the skull and the characteristic beak. The skin of the figure is done with small scales all over along with folds and rib details. As for the color scheme, the base color is a grayish brown with yellow eyes, off white claws, and a black beak. Not at all striking, but still, a very cute little figure.

In conclusion, I think that, in spite of some inaccuracies, this is a pretty good figure of a relatively controversial dinosaur and deserves a spot in any dinosaur lover’s collection, especially, those, like me, who fancy the ceratopsians.

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Comments 4

  • Should leptoceratopsids have five fingers? The fossil photos and skeletals on the Wikipedia article suggest that this should be the case.

    • *Shouldn’t

    • I could be wrong, but I think the outermost digit is sufficiently small (based on Russell 1970, Canadian Journal of Earth Sciences 7:181) that it would probably not be externally visible. It looks like it consists of either two metacarpal elements, the distal one very stubby, or one metacarpal and a single tiny phalanx.

  • It is a small and adorable figure. I have it on my bedside table as an ornament along with other dinosaurs of the same brand as laellynasaura, allosaurus and mutaburrasaurus.

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