Huge-horned, big-nosed dinosaur fossil discovered

Claudine Zap

The fossil of an impressive-looking, plant-eating species of dinosaur has been discovered in southern Utah’s Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, researchers from the Natural History Museum of Utah announced.

Called Nasutoceratops titusi, the first part translates to "big-nose horned face.” The second part is named for paleontologist Alan Titus to honor his work in the area.

The four-legged horned beast is a relative of the three-horned Triceratops family, but it stands out because its nose was larger than those of other horned dinosaurs of the time.

The herbivore lived in the swampy island continent known as Laramidia about 76 million years ago.

The Nasutoceratops titusi, which roamed North America in the late Cretaceous Period, sported a huge horn jutting over each eye and an impressively large nozzle.

“The jumbo-sized schnoz of Nasutoceratops likely had nothing to do with a heightened sense of smell—since olfactory receptors occur further back in the head adjacent to the brain—and the function of this bizarre feature remains uncertain,” Scott Sampson, the study’s lead author, stated in a press release.

The nose is only one oversized part of the giant creature, which measured 15 feet in length and weighed a massive 2.5 tons.

At least the horns served a purpose. “The amazing horns of Nasutoceratops were most likely used as visual signals of dominance and, when that wasn’t enough, as weapons for combatting rivals,” noted Mark Loewen, a co-author of the study.

The Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, where the fossil was found, was part of a former land mass called Laramidia in western North America. The land mass has yielded dinosaur fossil finds from Alaska to Mexico.

"Nasutoceratops is a wondrous example of just how much more we have to learn about with the world of dinosaurs," said co-author, Eric Lund, who also discovered the species. "Many more exciting fossils await discovery in Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument."