September 22, 2010

Scientists Uncover Skull From Horniest Dinosaur Ever

Scientists have unearthed a dinosaur in Utah that now holds the record for bearing the most horns on its head.

Paleontologists have uncovered the remains of an ancient beast that lived 76 million years ago in the warm, wet swamps of what is now southern Utah. 

The animal, named Kosmoceratops richardsoni, stood 16 feet tall with a 6-foot skull equipped with 15 horns.  The scientists speculate that the animal weighed 5,511 pounds.

"These animals are basically oversized rhinos with a whole lot more horns on their heads. They had huge heads relative to their body size," Scott Sampson, a researcher at the Utah Museum of Natural History, told The Guardian news site.

Kosmoceratops had one horn over its nose, one over each eye, one protruding from each cheekbone and a row of ten across the frill at the back of its head.

"As far as we know it's the most ornate-headed dinosaur ever found, with so many well-developed horns on its head," Sampson said.

The team found two skulls belonging to Kosmoceratops in an inaccessible 770,000-hectare expanse of southern Utah.

"This is one of the last, largely unexplored dinosaur treasure troves on the continent. We have to hike many miles to find these specimens in the first place and have to use helicopters to get them out," Sampson added.

The animal lived in Laramidia, an area known as the "lost continent," along with other herbivores and carnivores predators like raptors and tyrannosaurs.

"At the time, this was very much a swamp environment and very lush. The climate was more Mediterranean. It would have been a great place to hang out except for all the tyrannosaurs," Sampson told The Guardian.

Another animal even larger than Kosmoceratops was uncovered at the site with one large horn over its nose and two blunt outward-pointing horns above its eyes, according to what the scientists wrote in the journal PLoS ONE.

Another dinosaur, named Utahceratops gettyi, was also discovered. More information is available from the University of Utah press release listed below.


Image 1: Utah Museum of Natural History paleontologist Scott Sampson with the Kosmoceratops fossil. Credit: Utah Museum of Natural History

Image 2: This Kosmoceratops was discovered in Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in southern Utah. Credit: Lukas Panzarin


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