Triceratops has a new baby sister genus. A new dinosaur species was named this year in Proceedings of the Royal Society B, a species that represents a whole new genus in the Ceratopsidae, or “horned face,” family.

Unearthed in southern Utah’s arid Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument; one skull over four feet long, certain neck and leg bones, and fragments of a second skull allowed authors Scott D. Sampson, Eric Lund, Mark Loewen, Andrew Farke, Katherine Clayton and their associates to reconstruct a dinosaur with an abnormally large nose and enormous, forward sweeping, steer-like horns.

The new species, named Nasutoceratops titusi, would have grown approximately fifteen feet long and weighed around 2. 5 tons. Like its cousin Triceratops, Nasutoceratops was a four legged herbivore sporting horns and a large bony frill on its head which, roamed coastal forest in herds about 75 million years ago during the Late Cretaceous.

The purpose of its most notable features remains a mystery to scientists. Nasutoceratops titusi’s olfactory sensors were placed far back in its skull, near the brain -peculiarly, not near the nose – so its bulbous snout probably had nothing to do with its sense of smell. Its horns, which curve slightly upward and inward at the tips, from above its eyes to almost the end of its huge nose, could have been used for protection against predators, as deterrents to rival herbivores, or else to attract mates. It is not clear yet if the horns of female N. titusi were shorter than those of the males. Similarly, its broad, scalloped frill could have had many uses, from protecting its neck to dissipating body heat.

However, one thing Nasutoceratops, or “big nosed horned face,” does tell scientists is that more than one community of dinosaur might have lived in the western United States during the Late Cretaceous. This is remarkable not only because the badlands of Utah used to be seaside jungle, but because the shallow sea that covered the central United States left only the thin string of western states as unsubmerged continent, named Laramidia.

While little is known about the species of dinosaur that may have inhabited the eastern United States, the sliver of land that was Laramidia somehow supported separate sets of dinosaur species: Nasutoceratops and Teratophoneus in the south and Triceratops and Tyrannosaurs in the north. The idea that two contemporary or coeval communities of dinosaur lived on Laramedia is called “the provincialism hypothesis.” The existence of Nasutoceratops in Utah and not in Canada is good supporting evidence. If the provincialism hypothesis is proven correct it leaves scientists with many more questions to answer, such as why didn’t the ranges of Nasutoceratops and Triceratops mix?

Answers to these questions may come sooner than might be expected. The deserts of Utah have yielded scores of new dinosaur species in the past several years and many, many miles of desert are left to explore.

The report on Nasutoceratops was published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B on the 17th of July, 2013.

The Paleontological Research Institution, Ithaca, New York, is pleased to sponsor Paleontology content for This View of Life. Founded in 1932, PRI has outstanding programs in research, collections, and publications, and is a national leader in development of informal Earth science education resources for educators and the general public.


Published On: August 8, 2013

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