Scientists discover bizzare horned dinos on 'lost continent' in Utah

Last Updated: Thu, Sep 23, 2010 07:10 hrs

Scientists have unearthed two new species of horned dinosaursin Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, southern Utah.

The giant plant-eaters were inhabitants of the "lost continent" of Laramidia and are close relatives of the famous Triceratops.

The first dino, named Utahceratops gettyi, has a skull 2.3 meters (about 7 feet) long, a large horn over the nose, and short and blunt eye horns that project strongly to the side rather than upward, giving it a look of "a giant rhino with a ridiculously supersized head."

Second of the new species is Kosmoceratops richardsoni, which has sideways oriented eye horns, a total of 15 horns-one over the nose, one atop each eye, one at the tip of each cheek bone, and ten across the rear margin of the bony frill-making it the most ornate-headed dinosaur known.

Scott Sampson of University of Utah said, "Most of these bizarre features would have made lousy weapons to fend off predators. It's far more likely that they were used to intimidate or do battle with rivals of the same sex, as well as to attract individuals of the opposite sex."

Laramidia is the best known major landmass for the entire Age of Dinosaurs, with dig sites spanning from Alaska to Mexico. Utah was located in the southern part of Laramidia, which has yielded far fewer dinosaur remains than the fossil-rich north. The world of dinosaurs was much warmer than the present day; Utahceratops and Kosmoceratops lived in a subtropical swampy environment about 100 km from the seaway.

Scientists believe that greater abundance of food during the Cretaceous allowed many different dinosaurs to co-exist. Another reason could be that dinosaurs did not need to eat as much, perhaps because of slower metabolic rates more akin to those of modern day lizards and crocodiles than to those of mammals and birds.

Utahceratops and Kosmoceratops are part of a recent spate of ceratopsian dinosaur discoveries. Andrew Farke, another of the paper's authors, stated, "The past year has been a remarkable one for horned dinosaurs, with several new species named. The new Utah creatures are the icing on the cake, showing anatomy even more bizarre than typically expected for a group of animals known for its weird skulls."

The find is detailed in the journal PloS One. (ANI)