Big-Nosed, Long-Horned Dinosaur Named for GSENM Paleontologist
KANAB, Utah – For the third time in five years, a Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument employee was honored by having a newly discovered dinosaur named for them.
The British scientific journal, Proceedings of the Royal Society B announced July 17 that a remarkable new species of horned dinosaur unearthed in GSENM is called Nasutoceratops titusi . The first part of the name, Nasutoceratops translates as “big-nose horned face,” and the second part honors Monument paleontologist Dr. Alan Titus for his years of research collaboration and assistance provided to researchers on GSENM.
Previously, in 2010, GSENM volunteer and seasonal employee Scott Richardson had a dinosaur he discovered on the Monument in August 2006 named in his honor, Kosmoceratops richardsoni; and in 2009, park ranger Merle Graffam was honored when a therizinosaur he found in 2000 on a section of Utah State Institutional Trust Lands near GSENM was named Nothronychus graffami.
The published study, funded in large part by the Bureau of Land Management and the National Science Foundation, was led by Scott Sampson, when he was the Chief Curator at the Natural History Museum of Utah at the University of Utah. Sampson is now the Vice President of Research and Collections at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science. Additional authors include Eric Lund (Ohio University; previously a University of Utah graduate student), Mark Loewen (Natural History Museum of Utah and Dept. of Geology and Geophysics, University of Utah), Andrew Farke (Raymond Alf Museum), and Katherine Clayton (Natural History Museum of Utah).
Nasutoceratops, belonging to the horned dinosaur family Ceratopsidae , was a huge plant-eater inhabiting Laramidia, a landmass formed when a shallow sea flooded the central region of North America, isolating western and eastern portions for millions of years during the Late Cretaceous Period. As epitomized by the renown Triceratops, most members of this group have huge skulls bearing a single horn over the nose, one horn over each eye, and an elongate, bony frill at the rear. The newly discovered species, Nasutoceratops titusi, possesses several unique features, including an oversized nose relative to other members of the family, and exceptionally long, curving, forward-oriented horns over the eyes. The bony frill, rather than possessing elaborate ornamentations such as hooks or spikes, is relatively unadorned, with a simple, scalloped margin.
For reasons that have remained obscure, all ceratopsids have greatly enlarged nose regions at the front of the face. Nasutoceratops stands out from its relatives, however, in taking this nose expansion to an even greater extreme. Scott Sampson, the study’s lead author, stated, “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.”
Paleontologists have long speculated about the function of horns and frills on horned dinosaurs. Ideas have ranged from predator defense and controlling body temperature to recognizing members of the same species. Yet the dominant hypothesis today focuses on competing for mates—that is, intimidating members of the same sex and attracting members of the opposite sex. Peacock tails and deer antlers are modern examples. In keeping with this view, Mark Loewen, a co-author of the study claimed that, “The amazing horns of Nasutoceratops were most likely used as visual signals of dominance and, when that wasn’t enough, as weapons for combating rivals.”