Microceratops (Getty Images).


Microceratops (Greek for "small horned face"); pronounced MIKE-roe-SEH-rah-tops; also known as Microceratus


Woodlands of central Asia

Historical Period:

Late Cretaceous (70 million years ago)

Size and Weight:

About three feet long and 15-20 pounds



Distinguishing Characteristics:

Tiny size; occasional bipedal posture; small frill on head

About Microceratops

First things first: the dinosaur most people know as Microceratops underwent a name change in 2008, to the slightly less snazzy-sounding Microceratus. The reason is that (unbeknownst to the dinosaur paleontology community) the name Microceratops had already been assigned to a genus of wasp, and the classification rules say that no two creatures, no matter how different, no matter if one is alive and the other is extinct, can have the same genus name. (This is the same principle that led to Brontosaurus having its name changed to Apatosaurus a few decades back.)

Whatever you choose to call it, the 20-pound Microceratops was almost certainly the smallest ceratopsian, or horned, frilled dinosaur, that ever lived, outweighed even by the middle Cretaceous Psittacosaurus, which lay near the root of the ceratopsian family tree. Remarkably, just like its distant ancestor from tens of millions of years back, Microceratops seems to have walked on two legs--that, and its unusually tiny frill, making it a far cry from the "normal" ceratopsians with which it coexisted, like Triceratops and Styracosaurus. (You should bear in mind, though, that Microceratops was "diagnosed" on the basis of very limited fossil remains, so there's still a lot we don't know about this dinosaur!)