Environmental science isn’t just about dirt and the climate, it involves the history of our planet as well. One of my favorite things about the history of our planet is the giant reptiles who use to inhabit it. Dinosaurs. This past month a paleontologist by the name of Hector E. Rivera-Sylva discovered a new species of dinosaur in the state of Coahuila, Mexico. Rivera-Sylva has co-writen a book called Dinosaurs and Other Reptiles from the Mesozoic of Mexico and has been on many expeditions. He named the new dinosaur the Yehuecauhceratops mud relatively meaning ancient face with horns. Over 60% of the skeleton was found and constructed at 3 meters long and the new findings were all published in the Journal of South American Earth Sciences. The fossils are now residing at the Museo del Desierto (This website is in Spanish but is still really cool! Take time to check this out for sure). After hearing about the new discovery I immediately emailed Rivera-Sylva and was lucky enough to hear right back from him. The following is an email interview I conducted with him.
What made you decide to be a paleontologist?
Since I was a kid I want to study dinosaurs and since then I made that decision. I wanted to study those animals that no longer exist, and I wanted to understand how they lived. My parents help me and encourage me to study first biology and then paleontology.
What role does paleontology play in environmental science?
Well, paleontology is the science that let us see what kind of environment was before in certain area, and thanks to that we can understand better the normal changes of today.
How many expeditions have you conducted?
Several. Every year I had made one or two each year since 10 years ago.
What has been your biggest discovery so far?
Well, the new dinosaur Yehuecauhceratops mudei.
Is the Yehuecauhceratops mudei related to the Triceratops?
Both are from the same family, the ceratopsidae, or horned dinosaurs, but the Yehuecauhceratops is closer to Centrosaurus, because of the morphology of the squamosal,
Were the fossils you discovered younger or older? Male or female?
The fossils of Yehuecauhceratops are from an adult because the vertebra is fully grow, and if it is male or female we can’t say for sure.
How were the fossils preserved? What kind of environment were they in?
The dinosaur die in what was an ancient mangrove near the sea. Because of this, the bones didn´t have any kind of transportation and were nicely preserved. Of course the distortion after death was the responsible that we didn’t find all the bones together.