Palaeontologist smuggles proposal to wife in paper revealing new dinosaur

Unnoticed by many, was a line in the acknowledgements section at the end of the report that, happily, sent one heart in particular a-flutter

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As momentous days go, it couldn’t have got much better for palaeontologist Caleb M Brown. For in revealing the discovery of a new dinosaur, he also found himself a wife.

In a paper published in the journal Current Biology, the Canadian academic described a strange-looking creature with a bizarre “frilly crown” skull, causing a wave of excitement among fossil hunters the world over.

But, unnoticed by many, was a line in the acknowledgements section at the end of the article that, happily, sent one heart in particular a-flutter.

“C.M.B. would specifically like to highlight the ongoing and unwavering support of Lorna O’Brien. Lorna, will you marry me?” he wrote in the paper. The answer from Dr O’Brien, who like Dr Brown works as a palaeontologist at Royal Tyrrell Museum of Palaeontology in Drumheller, Alberta, was yes.

However Dr Brown was yesterday anxious to avoid his personal news overshadowing the unveiling of the new dinosaur, a Triceratops-like animal formally named Regaliceratops peterhewsi but known as “Hellboy” because of its unusual appearance. “We don’t want that part [their engagement] to eclipse the new species,” Dr Brown told Canada’s Globe and Mail newspaper.

Lorna O’Brien, right, accepted Caleb M Brown’s marriage proposal

The acknowledgements section of journal papers has become a place where some academics like to slip in comments not strictly in keeping with purely scientific endeavour. For example, one author once sarcastically thanked the US immigration service for forcing her to spend two months in another country “free of routine obligations”, while another acknowledged S. Layer for their “continued advice and inspiration” – referring to the heavy metal band, Slayer.

However Joseph Caputo, a spokesman for Current Biology’s publisher, Cell Press, said it was the first time they had ever had a proposal of marriage. “We wish the very best for the couple,” he told the Globe and Mail.

The unusual appearance of Regaliceratops peterhewsi  may provide some promising material for the best man’s speech. Dr Brown said the new species was distinguished by the size and shape of its facial horns, including two over its eyes that are “almost comically small”.  But its most distinctive feature is the halo of large, pentagonal plates that radiates out from the head and looks like a frilly crown.