Bizarre Dinosaur Lured Mates With Bony Adornments

Graeme Stemp-Morlock
for National Geographic News
October 14, 2008

The scary spikes on a newly discovered horned dinosaur species may look bizarre today, but they were sexy 72 million years ago, new research suggests.

Dubbed Pachyrhinosaur lakustai, the creature is related to Triceratops.

The dinosaur has a big bone on its nose to support a large central horn, two small spiky bones above its eyes, and three spikes in the middle of its forehead, the largest of which is about a foot (0.3 meter) in length.

It's "one of the most bizarre-looking dinosaurs ever," said Scott Sampson of the Utah Museum of Natural History, who was not involved with the study.

"It has more bony bells and whistles than just about any animal I've ever heard of."

(See pictures of other bizarre dinosaurs.)

Around the edge of its large skull plate, referred to as a frill, is a series of forward-curving spikes, each about 1.5 feet (0.45 meter) long.

Despite their less-than-cuddly appearance, researchers believe other Pachyrhinosaurs would have found the sharp adornments appealing.

Philip Currie, a paleontologist at the University of Alberta, said "it's generally conceded that these horns on the face and the frill were to make [the dinosaurs] attractive to potential mates."

Currie led the team that described the new species in a paper published by Canada's National Research Council.

Dinosaur Jackpot

The strange dino's bones were first found along the Pipestone Creek riverbed in Alberta, Canada, in the 1970s by a local high school science teacher, Al Lakusta, for whom the species is named.

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