New species of large-nosed, horned dinosaur discovered in Utah

 New species of large-nosed, horned dinosaur discovered in Utah

Science Recorder | Delila James | Thursday, July 18, 2013

Paleontologists have discovered a remarkable new species of horned dinosaur sporting a huge honker in Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in southern Utah. The newly discovered species, an enormous plant-eater that once roamed the ancient North American landmass known as Laramidia some 75 million years ago, belongs to the same family as Triceratops and has been named Nasutoceratops titusi. The findings are detailed in the British scientific journal, Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

Nasutoceratops titusi (“big-nosed horned face”), which measured 15 feet long and weighed more than two tons, inhabited central North America when the then-subtropical and swampy region was divided by a shallow sea that reached from the Arctic Ocean to the Gulf of Mexico.

According to a news release by the Natural History Museum of Utah, Nasutoceratops has several unique features that distinguish it from other horned dinosaurs, or “ceratopsids,” which were a group of large, quadrupedal herbivores characterized by huge frill-backed skulls adorned with a single horn over the nose and one horn over each eye. Aside from the creature’s over-sized proboscis, it had unusually long, curving, forward-pointing horns over its eyes and a relatively simple bony frill without much ornamentation.

The bones of Nasutoceratops were discovered in 2006 by Eric Lund, a University of Utah graduate student. Specimens are housed and displayed at the museum at the University of Utah. Lund, now at Ohio University, co-authored the study with researchers Mark Loewen, Andrew Farke, and Katherine Clayton. The research was headed by Scott Sampson, former chief curator at the museum and current vice president of research and collections at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science. Many young dinosaur enthusiasts know Sampson as “Dr. Scott,” the host and science advisor of the PBS KIDS television series, Dinosaur Train.

Interestingly, researchers do not believe Nasutoceratops’ enormous schnoz had anything to do with its sense of smell, as its olfactory receptors were located far back in the head. According to Sampson, the function of the dinosaur’s large nose remains unclear.

Paleontologists have long speculated about the function of horns and frills on horned dinosaurs, the museum says. While some believe they served as defense against predators, others think they played a role in controlling body temperature or may have helped the creature recognize members of its own species. Today, most believe these features evolved for the purpose of either attracting members of the opposite sex or intimidating members of the same sex.

“The amazing horns of Nasutoceratops were most likely used as visual signs of dominance and, when that wasn’t enough, as weapons for combatting rivals,” said co-author Loewen.

Nasutoceratops is one of many recent ceratopsid discoveries, which have shown these huge herbivores to be the most diverse dinosaur group on the ancient Laramidian landmass. Eric Lund, the discoverer of the new species said, “Nasutoceratops is a wondrous example of just how much more we have to learn about the world of dinosaurs. Many more exciting fossils await discovery in Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.”

Read more: