Don't look now, but there's a strange new fossil you can add to the list of dinosaurs humans have managed to uncover. According to CNN, a team of paleontologists discovered this intriguing creature's bones in the Judith River formation in Montana all the way back in 2012, and have been reconstructing it ever since. It doesn't even have an official scientific name just yet, but for now, you can call it by the name the research team came up with: Ava, the new "fat pony" dinosaur that could be a forerunner to a certain, very well-known horned dino.
If you're wondering what's meant by calling it a "fat pony" dinosaur, that's how paleontologist (and founder of the Rocky Mountain Dinosaur Resource Center) Mike Triebold summarized its appearance to CNN on Friday: "...a fat pony with a big head and horns."
It's reportedly believed that Ava could be related to the triceratops, although it goes back a lot further than that — the fossil is believed to be 9 million years older, and a lot smaller, too. According to CBS News, it's believed that Ava was just three-to-four years old when it died in the Late Cretaceous epoch, which would account for its relatively tiny stature. As you can see in the picture below, as far as epic beasts of our planet's prehistory go, this one's kind of a cute little guy.
The crucial observed difference between the triceratops and Ava (at least to the point in its maturation process that it died) is that Ava doesn't have a horn protruding from its nose, which is one of the triceratops' defining features.
Ava went on public display for the first time on Friday, in an unveiling at Triebold's Rocky Mountain Dinosaur Resource Center, after the team felt they'd sufficiently verified that it belonged to a hitherto undiscovered species — Triebold told CBS News that they made use of "the best ceratopsian specialist in the world" to confirm it. It no doubt helped that they got so much of Ava intact, at about 80 percent, although the finished fossil isn't 100 percent authentic; they also made use of a 3D-printer to fill in some of the gaps in its skeletal structure.
Pretty cool, huh? If you're curious to see what Ava looks like in person, you'll have to get out to Triebold's center, which is located in Woodland Park, Colorado, about 85 miles south of Denver.