National Geographic News
An illustration of a dinosaur.

An illustration shows how Nasutoceratops titusi may have looked.

Illustration courtesy Lukas Panzarin

The skull of a dinosaur.

Nasutoceratops' skull, reconstructed. Photograph courtesy Rob Gaston

Christine Dell'Amore

National Geographic News

Published July 16, 2013

Paleontologists have discovered a new dinosaur, a Triceratops relative with a supersize schnoz that once roamed present-day Utah.

Nasutoceratops titusi belonged to a group of horned dinosaurs called ceratopsids, large four-legged herbivores that thrived during the Cretaceous period, according to a study released Tuesday. (Also see "Two-Ton "Alien" Horned Dinosaur Found—'Different From Every Other.'")

Most ceratopsids were Triceratops-style, with huge heads bearing a small horn over the nose, a horn over each eye, and an ornate frill—a bony protrusion that fanned out over the base of the neck.

But the newfound dinosaur looked quite different, with a small horn over its oversize nose; extremely long, curved horns over its eyes; and a simple frill without hooks and spikes. (See pictures of bizarre dinosaurs in National Geographic magazine.)

The first part of the name Nasutoceratops titusi translates to "big nose horned face" in Latin.

Study co-author Scott Sampson, a paleontologist at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, suspects Nasutoceratops were slow-moving, wandering in big herds for protection.

The males likely used their "headgear" to compete for mates, locking those curved horns in battles for dominance, said Sampson, whose study was published July 17 in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

The horns may have also served as visual signals to other males, essentially sending the message "don't mess with me because I'm bigger than you," Sampson said. (Test your dinosaur knowledge.)

Paleontologist Matt Lamanna, of the Carnegie Museum of Natural History in Pittsburgh, said that the horns may have also helped the herbivores defend themselves.

"When you're carrying big spears on your head, if something's trying to eat you, you might use them," said Lamanna, who was not involved in the new study. (Related: "Two New Horned Dinosaurs Found in Utah.")

A Paleontologist's Dream

Nasutoceratops lived on Laramidia, an isolated landmass that formed when a shallow sea flooded central North America during the Cretaceous, about 75 million years ago.

The vegetarian dinosaur munched on plants in a swampy, Louisiana-like bayou alongside lots of other dinosaurs not far from the coast. Sampson, a National Geographic grantee, called it "gorgeous beachfront property, like wall-to-wall Jamaica."

"Just put up a few electric fences to keep out Tyrannosaurus and you'd be all set," he quipped. (Explore a dinosaur interactive.)

Today, said Sampson, the vast expanse of untouched badlands is a "paleontologist's dream."

Within the continental United States, he said, "it's the last great relatively unexplored dinosaur boneyard."

The second part of the name Nasutoceratops titusi honors Alan Titus, a paleontologist at the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in southern Utah, which encompasses the area where the fossils were found.

Dinosaur Diversity

Nasutoceratops' wildly different appearance from other ceratopsids may testify to the existence of two distinct communities of distantly related Cretaceous dinosaurs on Laramidia. (See Cretaceous pictures.)

"If you were to take a time machine back to western North America 75 million years ago and walk north from what is now southern Utah to Alberta, Canada, you'd encounter at least two distinct sets of dinosaurs along the way," noted Lamanna, saying such regional differences also applied to other groups of dinosaurs.

"But until recently, evidence for this type of latitudinal zonation in dinosaurs had been very limited," making Nasutoceratops "an important discovery," he said.

Added study co-author Sampson: "This find raises some great questions and mysteries. We're just beginning to understand the world of dinosaurs."

Follow Christine Dell'Amore on Twitter and Google.

Neil Boumpani
Neil Boumpani

IT should be called the Jimmydurantesuarus."

Wow, this is too much culture for me today... better run.

Mistreanu Diana
Mistreanu Diana

I wish there will be a new documentary about this dinosaur and his daily life :)

Christine Dell'Amore
Christine Dell'Amore

Thanks for the comments everyone! Love the moose comparison, I can definitely see it. Other readers, what do you think the new dino looks like? 

Robin Swan
Robin Swan

they roamed present day Utah?! He gad!

Gary Tanner
Gary Tanner

Looks like a cross between a Texas longhorn and a parrot.

Carol Music
Carol Music

Looks much like a moose to me!! 

All kidding aside, I find it awesome that we are still discovering so much about our past animal/human history as well as still uncovering current live species nearly every day! Our world is a wondrous thing!

Cathy Creswell
Cathy Creswell

I LOVE the beak!! More evidence of similar design with birds. I'd like to know what it could crack open. Macaws at a local shop have no problem breaking open Brazil nuts and their beaks are perfectly shaped to scoop out the nut.

J. J.
J. J.

@Christine Dell'Amore A bull, look at those horns!  I believe this dino deserved a bull-related name, like Tauroceratops or something like that. Can`t understand why the nose was what caught the scientists' attention...

Phil Stentor
Phil Stentor

@Gary Tanner

Wonder how all-ceratopsid franks would taste.

I guess this could be called form convergent evolution.

J. J.
J. J.

@Cathy Creswell Just imagine the size of its jaw muscles... this baby could probably bite through a fence without much trouble if it was alive today...


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