July 17, 2013 1:29 pm
Scientists have just described Nasutoceratops titusi, a new species of dinosaur, Wired reports. The new dino belongs to the same family as the Triceratops, and it lived in the Utah region around 75 million years ago. But what distinguishes it—and where it gets its Latin name from—is its gigantic schnoz and its curving horns.
The Guardian describes the unique features L. titusi possessed that set it apart from its relatives:
While not especially long, it is very tall and rounded and quite distinct from its near relatives. Although the snout is large this doesn’t give it any advantages in the scent department as the actual nostril is not especially large and the parts of the brain that deal with smell are not enlarged either. Even though the nose is responsible for the name, perhaps the most notable feature are the main horns. In most ceratopsians these point mostly up and away from the eyes, but in Nasutoceratops these stick nearly straight forwards and do rather give the impression that it is like an especially large and non-mammalian cow.
Here’s Wired on how N. Titusi fits into the larger dinosaur scheme:
Its closest relative is Avaceratops lammersi, a species that lived in the northwest about 2 million years earlier. Together, the two form a group that diverged from the rest of the ceratopsid lineage about 81 million years ago, evolving larger horns and simpler frills than other species. Scientists have debated whether these, and other large dinosaurs, roamed contiguously through North America, or if the giant reptiles could evolve independently and occupy localized communities.
This discovery, Wired writes, provides evidence that L. titusi and its relatives did evolve and exist independently of other ancient animal communities in Laramidia, a large island that included the area from what is now Northern Alaska to Mexico.
However, as Nature reports, archaeologists are still speculating why these species evolved independently:
What caused the different species to evolve remains unclear. Impassable mountains or rivers have both been suggested as reasons that populations became separated and evolved differently. However, such features are unlikely to have separated north and south Laramidia for long enough for that to happen.
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