Paleontologists have discovered a strange dinosaur: a relative of Triceratops with a humongous honker.
Nasutoceratops titusi, whose genus name means “big-nose horned face,” roamed present-day Utah about 76 million years ago. The find sheds further light on the dinosaur communities that inhabited what is now the western part of North America.
Similar to its relative Triceratops, Nasutoceratops measured about 15 feet long and weighed roughly 2.5 tons. Its colossal 4.5-foot skull bore a single horn over the nose, a horn above each eye and an elongated, bony frill toward the rear. Its large, flat teeth were perfect for eating plant matter.
The dinosaur also possessed an array of unique features, according to a report published Wednesday in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B.
For one, the bony cavern housing Nasutoceratops’ nose was remarkably large compared with those of other horned dinosaurs. But that doesn’t necessarily mean the creature had a more refined sense of smell, because the olfactory receptors would have sat farther back in the skull, said Scott Sampson, a paleontologist at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science who co-wrote the study.
University of Utah paleontologist and study co-author Mark Loewen said he suspected prospective mates found the oversized nose attractive because the rapid change previously observed among related species is characteristic of sexual selection. This selection might have fixed the trait within the species over time.