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Bizarre dino with giant nose and horns turns up

July 17, 2013
Courtesy of University of Utah 
and World Science staff

A newly dis­cov­ered di­no­saur pos­sessed un­ique fea­tures in­clud­ing an over­sized nose and long, forward-curving horns over the eyes, sci­en­tists re­port.

Dubbed Na­su­to­ce­ra­tops ti­tusi, the 76-mil­lion-year-old plant-eater was un­earthed in Grand Stair­case-Esca­lan­te Na­t­ional Mon­u­ment, south­ern Utah.

Artist's rendition of Na­su­to­ce­ra­tops. (© Raúl Martín)


Scientists said the an­i­mal lived in La­ra­mi­dia, a land­mass formed when a shal­low sea flood­ed cen­tral North Amer­i­ca, iso­lat­ing the west­ern and east­ern parts for mil­lions of years dur­ing the Late Cre­ta­ceous Pe­ri­od.

“The jumbo-sized schnoz of Na­su­to­ce­ra­tops likely had noth­ing to do with a height­ened sense of smell—since ol­fac­to­ry [smell] re­cep­tors oc­cur fur­ther back in the head,” next to the brain, said Scott Samp­son of the Den­ver Mu­seum of Na­ture & Sci­ence, the study’s lead au­thor.

“The func­tion of this bi­zarre fea­ture re­mains un­cer­tain.” 

For some rea­son, all horned dino­saurs from the per­iod have greatly en­larged nose re­gions—but Na­su­to­ce­ra­tops goes furth­est in this re­spect, the scientists added.

The di­no­saur, be­lieved to be­long to the same family as the fa­mous Tri­cer­a­tops, was de­scribed July 17 in the re­search jour­nal Pro­ceed­ings of the Roy­al So­ci­e­ty B. The an­i­mal lived in a swampy, sub­trop­i­cal set­ting on the “is­land con­ti­nent” of west­ern North Amer­i­ca, or La­ra­mi­dia.

The skull of the new­ly an­nounced Na­su­to­ce­ra­tops from Grand Stair­case-Es­ca­lante Na­tion­al Mon­u­ment, which en­com­passes 1.9 mil­lion ac­res of high des­ert ter­rain in south-central Utah. (Cred­it: Rob Gas­ton)


Na­su­to­ce­ra­tops seems to be­long to a pre­vi­ously un­rec­og­nized group of horned di­no­saurs of La­ra­mi­dia, and pro­vides strong ev­i­dence that dis­tinct north­ern and south­ern di­no­saur com­mun­i­ties lived there for over a mil­lion years dur­ing the Late Cre­ta­ceous, re­search­ers said.

The an­i­mal was an es­ti­mat­ed 15 feet (5 me­ters) long and 2.5 tons in weight, less than half the weight of Tri­cer­a­tops.

The name
Na­su­to­ce­ra­tops can be trans­lated as the “big-nosed horned face.” The sec­ond part of the name hon­ors Al­an Ti­tus, pa­le­on­tol­ogist at Grand Staircase-Escalante Na­t­ional Mon­u­ment, for his work sup­port­ing re­search at the site.

The skull is on per­ma­nent dis­play at the Nat­u­ral His­to­ry Mu­se­um of Utah.

* * *

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A newly discovered dinosaur possessed unique features including an oversized nose and long, forward-curving horns over the eyes, scientists report. Dubbed Nasutoceratops titusi, the 76-million-year-old plant-eater was unearthed in Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, southern Utah. The animal inhabited Laramidia, a landmass formed when a shallow sea flooded central North America, isolating the western and eastern parts for millions of years during the Late Cretaceous Period. “The jumbo-sized schnoz of Nasutoceratops likely had nothing to do with a heightened sense of smell—since olfactory [smell] receptors occur further back in the head, adjacent to the brain—and the function of this bizarre feature remains uncertain,” said Scott Sampson, the study’s lead author. The dinosaur, believed to belong to the same family as the famous Triceratops, was described July 17 in the research journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B. The animal lived in a swampy, subtropical setting on the “island continent” of western North America, or Laramidia. Nasutoceratops seems to belong to a previously unrecognized group of horned dinosaurs of Laramidia, and provides strong evidence that distinct northern and southern dinosaur communities lived there for over a million years during the Late Cretaceous, researchers said. The animal was an estimated 15 feet (5 meters) long and 2.5 tons in weight, less than half the weight of Triceratops. The name Nasutoceratops can be translated as the “big-nosed horned face.” The second part of the name honors Alan Titus, paleontologist at Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, for his work supporting research at the site. The skull is on permanent display at the Natural History Museum of Utah.