Bizarre dinosaur with 15 horns discovered

A bizarre dinosaur with 15 horns roamed in Utah region in the US some 76 mn years ago.

Updated: Sep 24, 2010, 09:00 AM IST

Washington: Palaeontologists have unearthed a bizarre dinosaur with 15 horns that roamed in southern Utah region in the US some 76 million years ago.

The dinosaur, believed to be one of the close relatives of Triceratops, had a horn over its nose, one atop each eye, one at the tip of each cheekbone, and 10 across the rear
margin of its bony frill.

According scientists, the head of the amazing animal, named Kosmoceratops richardsoni, is the most ornate of any dinosaur known.

The name comes from the Latin "kosmos" for ornate, the Greek "ceratops" meaning horned face, and the latter part honours Scott Richardson, the volunteer who discovered two skulls of this animal in 2007, LiveScience reported.

"Kosmoceratops is one of the most amazing animals known, with a huge skull decorated with an assortment of bony bells and whistles," said researcher Scott Sampson, a research
curator at the Utah Museum of Natural History.

It is believed that the animal was about five meters long and weighed about 2,500 kg when alive.

Its larger relative, also newly discovered, is named Utahceratops gettyi -- honouring Mike Getty, paleontology collections manager at the Utah Museum of Natural History, who
discovered this behemoth in 2000.

It possessed a large horn over the nose, and short, blunt eye horns that projected strongly to the side rather than upward, much more like the horns of modern bison than
those of Triceratops and its other relatives, known as ceratopsians.

Although scientists have speculated that the ornate horns and frills of ceratopsians might have helped fight off carnivores, for the newly discovered dinosaurs "most of these
bizarre features would have made lousy weapons to fend off predators," Sampson said.

"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."

These new beasts were found in Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in southern Utah, a "largely unexplored dinosaur boneyards" which was once part of a now-lost continent.
The palaeontologists, who detailed their findings in the journal PLoS ONE, said when these behemoths were alive roughly 76 million years ago, the area was part of the island
continent of Laramidia -- a part of North America now. In addition to Kosmoceratops and Utahceratops, scientists have unearthed from the area a variety of other plant-eating
dinosaurs, including duck-billed hadrosaurs, such as Gryposaurus monumentensis, armoured ankylosaurs, and dome-headed pachycephalosaurs.
They have also dug up large and small carnivorous dinosaurs, from raptor-like predators, such as Hagryphus giganteu, to mega-sized tyrannosaurs.

Many more dinosaurs likely remain to be unearthed in southern Utah. "It`s an exciting time to be a paleontologist," Sampson added. "With many new dinosaurs still discovered each year, we can be quite certain that plenty of surprises still await us out there."