Microceratus gobiensis (S/F)

Microceratus gobiensis is a small bipedal species of ceratopsian that originated in the Cretaceous period, roughly 90 million years ago. Its binomial name means “small horn from the Gobi.” The animal was originally described as Microceratops gobiensis by Bohlin in 1953; however, the genus name was reassigned to Microceratus in 2008, since the genus name was already occupied by a poorly-studied ichneumon wasp from Madagascar in the subfamily Gelinae which had been named a year prior to the dinosaur. Microceratus was among the first ceratopsians, although it is more derived than the psittacosaurs.

Many of the fossils once ascribed to Microceratus have since been reassigned to Graciliceratops, but the original type specimen is still classified in the genus Microceratus, so it remains valid.

International Genetic Technologies successfully cloned this species sometime in the late 1980s or early 1990s on Isla Sorna. There is no evidence that they were intended for Jurassic Park, but sometime between 2004 and 2015, they were introduced to Isla Nublar by InGen for a different park. Interestingly, an InGen report dated December 7, 1996 lists this genus as Microceratus rather than Microceratops; this indicates that the animal’s genus name was corrected decades earlier than in real life.

Description
Quadrupedal pose

Microceratus is a small ceratopsian which lacks the horns of its later relatives, such as Triceratops, but does already have a bony frill on its skull. The animal weighs roughly 14 pounds and is about 2.5 feet long (slightly larger and significantly bulkier than fossil specimens). It is said to have been the smallest dinosaur in Jurassic World, smaller even than Compsognathus.

Its skull is bulky and large, and its mouth is powerfully beaked. The beak itself is toothless, but there are teeth farther back in the jaws, used for crushing up plant matter. The head lacks horns but does have a pair of small epijugals, or cheek horns, one one either side; this feature would be seen in most of the later ceratopsians as well. The head frill is proportionally smaller than later ceratopsians and lacks any epoccipitals in addition to being devoid of horns. While the skull is sturdy and defensive, this dinosaur’s small size makes it vulnerable to most predators.

While it runs bipedally, it is capable of assuming a quadruped position, going down on all fours if it needs to. The feet have three toes each, while the hands have four short fingers. Its arms are roughly half the length of its legs, and its tail is about as long as its body. The tail is somewhat deep, counterbalancing the head, and the limbs are thin and wiry. This is an animal evolved for foraging on forest floors and grasslands, running at a decent speed, and relying on evasive movements to avoid being eaten.

Coloration in this animal is highly variable, but there are some consistent patterns. The base color is a light yellow, and the tail features darker brown striping. Across the body are brown or red streaks, with the back generally being redder or more purple than the lower parts of the body. The neck has a distinctive “collar” of light yellow, lacking any brown or red patterning. On the head, Microceratus has darker-colored stripes outlining the contours of its frill and beak; the frill is generally yellowish, but the lower part of the face often has red or pink shading, and certain individuals have teal patterning on parts of the head.

Individualism in M. gobiensis

At this point, only the variants created under Masrani Global Corporation have been seen. The appearance of InGen‘s original version remains unknown.

Growth

So far, growth stages of Microceratus remain unknown, though an image shown on the Jurassic World official website does show animals of slightly different sizes. Coloration does not appear to correlate with growth stages.

Sexual Dimorphism

It has been suggested that the difference in coloration between certain Microceratus may represent sexual dimorphism, with males having teal-colored patterns on the face, but this is not known for certain.

Habitat
Preferred Habitat

Based on images shown on the Jurassic World official website, Microceratus is suggested to live in grassy regions with trees nearby. It apparently was found in or near developed areas in Jurassic World, further suggesting that it prefers mostly-open areas with cover available.

Isla Nublar

Sometime between 2004 and 2015, Microceratus was introduced to Jurassic World. If any were rescued from Isla Sorna in 2004-2005, they were contained in a quarantine paddock for a period of time before being introduced to habitats. They were known to inhabit the area near the Jungle River, where they could be visible from the Cretaceous Cruise attraction. Population statistics for this species are not currently known.

Based on storyboards, Microceratus may have lived in the Gentle Giants Petting Zoo even as adults. It is known to be able to roam around some tourist areas of Sector 3, due to signage warning visitors not to litter due to the harm this would present to the tiny dinosaurs.

Some populations survived during the three years that followed the 2015 Isla Nublar incident that closed Jurassic World. At least some of them inhabited the foothills near Mount Sibo; other populations may have existed at the Jurassic World golf course, which was reported to be a haven for smaller herbivores. According to the Dinosaur Protection Group, the population near Mount Sibo was exposed to dangerous levels of hydrogen fluoride from the volcano during 2017 and 2018. This, along with pulmonary exposure to ash coating plant life, threatened the continued existence of this species; they were among the most threatened animals based on DPG reports. Microceratus was still extant on Isla Nublar as of June 18, 2018; following the June 23 eruption of the volcano, it is most likely that any remaining Microceratus died off.

Isla Sorna

InGen bred Microceratus on Isla Sorna sometime between 1986 and 1993. As of June 11, 1993, they were not ready for exhibition in Jurassic Park.

At last count in 1993, InGen had 22 living Microceratus on Isla Sorna. It is unknown if this population survived, or what part of the island they inhabited. If any survived until 2004, they would have been transported to Isla Nublar.

Other

This dinosaur originally existed about 90 million years ago, evolving in central Asia during the Cretaceous period. It may have existed for only a short time, but the fossil record provides only snapshots of prehistory; it is also possible that this species had a longer term on Earth than has thus far been discovered. Nonetheless, it became extinct, and remained so until scientists in the late twentieth century used genetic engineering to restore it to life.

It is not known if any Microceratus were removed to the mainland. Poaching in the Muertes Archipelago continued from late 1997 until at least the mid-2010s, though presumably all animals had been removed by 2004. In June of 2018, a mercenary group led by Ken Wheatley harvested animals from Isla Nublar at the behest of Eli Mills, but it is unknown if Microceratus were among their number.

Behavior and Ecology
Activity Patterns

The daily activity patterns of Microceratus are not known, but storyboards portray some as being active during the daytime.

Diet and Feeding Behavior

This animal is a herbivore, feeding on leaves and twigs. They use their beaks to crop food. The small size of these animals means that they would mostly feed on plants close to the ground, which would be common in the grasslands and forests they seem to favor. In the fossil record, they are believed to have fed on ferns, cycads, and conifers. Specimens surviving on Isla Sorna after 1995 would have fed on the native soy and agama beans, as well as other lysine-rich plants, to combat the lysine contingency.

Based on warning signs in Jurassic World, they may be experimental feeders somewhat like goats, consuming unfamiliar items that may or may not be edible. This may lead them to eat unhealthy or harmful items.

Social Behavior

Microceratus is consistently portrayed living in moderate to large social groups, but any details about their social lives or herd hierarchy have yet to be described.

Reproduction

As a dinosaur, Microceratus would lay eggs to reproduce. Its more derived relative Triceratops is portrayed with a cloaca in Jurassic Park: The Game, so it can be hypothesized that Microceratus may have cloacae as well.

Most herbivorous dinosaurs lay rounded eggs, as opposed to the ovoid eggs of theropods. Due to its size, Microceratus probably lays very small eggs. A medium or average-sized dinosaur egg has an incubation period of three to six months, with size correlating to the length of incubation. Microceratus would fall on the far end of this scale, with an incubation period likely lasting a few weeks as in many small birds.

Communication

Currently, nothing is known about the vocalizations or other communication methods of this animal.

Ecological Interactions

Due to its small size and low aggression, Microceratus would remain near the bottom of the food chain, easily preyed upon by small carnivores. It is a known predator of low-growing plants and would keep the island’s undergrowth in check.

It seems to be comfortable among other herbivorous animals. Near the Jungle River, its neighbors would include Apatosaurus, Stegosaurus, and Parasaurolophus; it is unlikely that it would be allowed to interact with the carnivores along the river. Following the island’s abandonment, its habitat in the foothills of Mount Sibo was shared closely with Parasaurolophus and Pachycephalosaurus.

In prehistory, Microceratus was affected by hematophagous (blood-drinking) parasites such as mosquitoes. It is not known if similar modern parasites affect it.

Cultural Significance
Symbolism

This dinosaur is not commonly featured in art or culture because it is not extremely well-known.

In Captivity

Due to its small size, Microceratus is reasonably easy to keep in captivity. It is one of the safest de-extinct animals and is unlikely to cause problems as extreme as its larger relatives, and its cute appearance makes it appealing to park-goers. In Jurassic World, signage implies that it was allowed to safely roam in areas where they would interact with visitors, such as the Gentle Giants Petting Zoo; they were the only animals kept here as adults, while the other species were moved to larger enclosures once they matured.

While it appears to have been adaptable enough to live in more developed areas of the park, habitats farther out from Main Street were located in woodland and grassland, where this animal eventually lived in the wild. As a small creature, it does not compete with most of the other herbivorous dinosaurs known to have lived in the park, making it easy to keep alongside other species. However, caution would necessarily have to be taken to keep it safe from predators, not only other de-extinct life but also modern carnivorous animals. Its small size would also make it difficult to find in the event that its tracking implant failed.

It is essential to keep the Microceratus habitat clean and free of litter, as they appear to be experimental feeders and may accidentally consume food or other substances that could harm them.

Science

Paleontologists gain precious insight into ceratopsian evolution from Microceratus and its close relatives, which represent animals more advanced than Psittacosaurus but less so than Protoceratops. While most of the fossils originally assigned to this genus have since been reassigned, the holotype remains.

A genetically modified Microceratus created in Jurassic World

In the Genetic Age, this animal became a part of groundbreaking research conducted by InGen geneticists working under Dr. Henry Wu. Having brought it back from extinction decades prior, InGen performed experimentation in Jurassic World to demonstrate a kind of artificial evolution, projecting what the descendants of Microceratus might look like. The experiment showed the formation of a nasal horn and two brow horns, a similar arrangement to the more evolved Triceratops. While it is not known whether any of these variants were actually created (or, if they were, whether they survived), this kind of research advanced genetic engineering methods at InGen by leaps and bounds.

Politics

Microceratus has not been intensely politicized despite the cutting-edge genetic research it was involved in at Jurassic World, but its continued existence was up for debate in government halls during 2017 and 2018. Volcanic activity centered around Isla Nublar’s Mount Sibo threatened the ecosystem of the island, and with most of the Microceratus population living near the volcano, it was among the most threatened species according to the Dinosaur Protection Group. Other than being mentioned as a threatened species, Microceratus was not featured extensively in DPG material. It is unknown if any were removed from Isla Nublar before the eruption in mid-2018.

Resources

As with all de-extinct animals, Microceratus is a source of natural and/or artificial biopharmaceutical compounds as a result of its biology. These are notably different from those obtainable from natural species alive in modern ecosystems, but specific details are undisclosed at this time. Along with this, Microceratus is valued as a subject in genetic engineering experimentation as well as a valuable addition to InGen’s genetic library.

Before the fall of Jurassic World, this dinosaur was of minor importance as a tourist attraction. It did not draw the same crowds as its larger neighbors, but its small size, cute appearance, and easy housing requirements made it an effective addition to Jurassic World’s roster of species. Its position at the base of the food web would also make Microceratus an essential component of the artificial ecosystems created by de-extinction projects, though InGen probably did not use it for this purpose during Jurassic World’s operating years.

Safety

Microceratus is one of the smallest de-extinct animals brought to life so far, but caution should still be taken around it as with any animal. It is mostly docile and non-aggressive, but may react if provoked. Storyboards for Jurassic World show one leaping at a tourist’s face after the man taps on a glass pane between him and the dinosaur.

The main risk of interacting with this dinosaur is the beak, which is built for cropping plants but could easily break or sever a human digit. Avoid hand-feeding the animal and only give food if permitted by experts, and then only in designated feeding areas. The more it associates people with food, the more likely it is to bite a person (either on accident while eating or if it becomes agitated). If you need to handle a Microceratus, it is probably best to pick it up from behind, with its beak facing away from you. Treat it as you would a large herbivorous bird such as a parrot. In extreme cases, remember that it is lightweight and can be easily pushed away, and contrary to common belief it cannot climb trees.

Disambiguation Links

“Microceratops” gobiensis (*) (C/N)