Scientists report newly discovered horned dinosaur unearthed in Utah

Wed Jul 17, 2013 9:16pm EDT
 
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By Laura Zuckerman

(Reuters) - A big-nosed dinosaur that may have used its impressive horns as a mate magnet and to ward off competitors has been unearthed in a fossil-rich deposit in southern Utah, scientists said on Wednesday.

The novel species, Nasutoceratops or "big-nose horned face," is the only known member of a group of dinosaurs thought to have lived 76 million years ago on a land mass in Western North America isolated by an ancient seaway, said Scott Sampson, one of the paleontologists who discovered the extinct reptile.

The new animal, described in the current issue of the British scientific journal Proceedings of the Royal Society, is from a previously unknown branch of horned dinosaurs and stands out for horns that extend over its eyes toward the tip of a prominent nose, Sampson said.

"This animal is bizarre. It takes horns to another level," he told Reuters in a telephone interview.

The impressive rack may be tied to attracting mates, intimidating or warring with intruders or cooling the brain, said Sampson, vice president of research and collections at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science.

The outsized, cold-blooded creature used a beak-like mouth to crop tropical plants, which it chewed with hundreds of teeth that were replaceable like a shark's, he said.

The find in the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in Utah provides the strongest evidence that the southern portion of ancient Western North America was home to its own diverse dinosaur community.

Dramatic exposures of rock from the age of dinosaurs at the Grand Staircase-Escalante have in the last 13 years led to "a completely new dinosaur assemblage we didn't even know existed," Sampson said.   Continued...

 
An artist's version of the newly discovered horned dinosaur Nasutoceratops titusi, discovered in the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in southern Utah, is shown in this image released by the Natural History Museum of Utah on July 17, 2013. REUTERS/Lukas Panzann/The Natural History Museum of Utah/Handout via Reuters