A team of international scientists have identified two dinosaur skulls found in Alberta almost a century ago as a previously unknown species.

Two skulls of the newly named Spinops sternbergorum were originally discovered southeast of Calgary in 1916 by a father and son science team.

Charles and Levi Sternberg sent the bones to London's Natural History Museum but a scientist labelled them as "rubbish" and the skulls were forgotten for years.


This artist's conception of the new dinosaur is based on two skulls originally discovered southeast of Calgary in 1916 by Charles and Levi Sternberg. (Lukas Panzarin/courtesy of Raymond M. Alf Museum of Paleontology/Canadian Press)

Nearly a century later, scientists rummaging through the museum's collection stumbled on the skulls, re-examined them and found that they belonged to an unknown species.

The Spinops was a smaller cousin to the Triceratops and lived 76 million years ago.

It was a plant-eater with a distinctive horn projecting from the top of its nose and a bony neck frill with two spikes protruding backwards and two hooks curving forwards.

Andrew Farke of California's Raymond M. Alf Museum of Paleontology led the study which named the new dinosaur.

He hopes the new discovery will motivate scientists to find more fossils of the species which so far is unique to Alberta.

He says more finds will help researchers figure out what happened to the species.