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Press Release 10-170
New Species of Multi-horned Dinosaurs Unearthed in Utah

With looks that kill, two newly discovered dinosaur species once roamed lost continent in what is now southern Utah

Photo of Scott Sampson with the fossil of the species Kosmoceratops richardsoni.

Scott Sampson pictured with the fossil of the species Kosmoceratops richardsoni.
Credit and Larger Version

September 22, 2010

View a video of Dr. Scott Sampson discussing the two new species of dinosaur discovered at Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.

"A giant rhino with a ridiculously supersized head"

"Fifteen long, pointed sideways oriented eye 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"

"A horned face: large horn over the nose and short, blunt eye horns that project strongly to the side"

Such phrases have been used to describe two newly discovered species of dinosaurs with looks only a mother could love. Still, they are drawing the attention and inspiring the imagination of scientists and lay people alike.

Announced today in PLoS ONE, the online open-access journal produced by the Public Library of Science, two new species of horned dinosaurs--Utahceratops gettyi and Kosmoceratops richardsoni--have been found in Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in southern Utah. Close relatives of the famous Triceratops, these giant plant eaters were once inhabitants of the "lost island continent" of Laramidia, a swampy, subtropical setting formed when a shallow sea flooded the central region of North America, isolating the eastern and western portions of the continent for millions of years during the late Cretaceous period.

"My enthusiasm for these findings is threefold," said Raymond Bernor, program director of the Sedimentary Geology and Paleobiology Program at the National Science Foundation (NSF). "First, researchers discovered two new, exciting dinosaur species. Second, the research has accomplished a major advance in understanding the biogenographic provinciality of Western North American dinosaur communities that apparently included separate northern and southern populations. And third, this discovery has inspired future discoveries in the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, which has now emerged as one of the most important paleontological reserves in the world."

But what about these ugly, horned creatures … Although much speculation has ensued about the function of the ceratopsian horns and frills of these prehistoric monsters--from fighting off predators to recognizing other members of the same species or controlling body temperature--the dominant idea today is that these features functioned first and foremost to enhance reproductive success. Scott Sampson, first author on the paper, explains, "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."

More details are available in a press release from the Utah Museum of Natural History.

View a video discussing the two new species of dinosaur.

-NSF-

Media Contacts
Lisa-Joy Zgorski, NSF, (703) 292-8311, lisajoy@nsf.gov
Patti Carpenter, Utah Museum of Natural History, (801) 707-6138, pcarpenter@umnh.utah.edu

Program Contacts
Raymond Bernor, NSF, (703) 292-8551, rbernor@nsf.gov

Principal Investigators
Scott Sampson, Utah Museum of Natural History and University of Utah, (707) 536-8829, ssampson@umnh.utah.edu

Co-Investigators
Mark Loewen, Utah Museum of Natural History, (801) 891-6036, mloewen@umnh.utah.edu
Andrew Farke, Raymond M. Alf Museum of Paleontology, (909) 626-3587, afarke@webb.org

Related Websites
Utah Museum of Natural History: Press Release: http://umnh.utah.edu/databaseshowitem.aspx?id=77213

The National Science Foundation (NSF) is an independent federal agency that supports fundamental research and education across all fields of science and engineering. In fiscal year (FY) 2014, its budget is $7.2 billion. NSF funds reach all 50 states through grants to nearly 2,000 colleges, universities and other institutions. Each year, NSF receives about 50,000 competitive requests for funding, and makes about 11,500 new funding awards. NSF also awards about $593 million in professional and service contracts yearly.

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View a video of Dr. Scott Sampson discussing the two new species of dinosaur.
View a Video.
Credit and Larger Version

An artist conception of newly discovered dinosaur species unearthed from the lost continent
An artist conception of the two newly discovered dinosaur species.
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Photo of skulls of the two new species of dinosaurs.
Skulls of the two new species of dinosaurs.
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Dinosaur distribution on the continent.
Dinosaur distribution on the continent.
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Photo of Scott Sampson with the skull of Utahceratops gettyi.
Scott Sampson with the skull of Utahceratops gettyi, measuring about seven feet long.
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Photo of researchers digging for fossils in Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah.
Researchers dig for fossils in Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, southern Utah.
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