GENERICO.ruScienceThe found dinosaur amazed with its horns: “Like a heavy metal rocker”

The found dinosaur amazed with its horns: “Like a heavy metal rocker”

Scientists: “This is a success story”

For more than a year, visitors to the Museum of Evolution in Maribo (Denmark) have been in for a treat: they can admire a previously unknown species of dinosaur that had no name. A sign next to a large, wonderfully decorated animal skull resembling a Triceratops read: “New dinosaur being studied, stay tuned!” Now, five years after the discovery of this specimen, this dinosaur finally has a name: Lokiceratops rangiformis.

Scientists: “This is a success story

“It was found in northern Montana, about 3 miles south of the US-Canadian border,” said Joseph Sertich, a paleontologist at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute and Colorado State University, and one of the leaders of the study that released the findings, published in PeerJ magazine.

“This is an area famous for its horned dinosaurs. In fact, there are four other species of horned dinosaurs known from this particular region,” Sertich said. “So when we started working on it, we assumed it would be one of these four species – we were completely shocked to find out that it was a completely new species.”

The fossil was found in an area of ​​North America that was separated from the rest of the continent when Locyceratops was alive, about 78 million years ago, and formed a large island called Laramidia, CNN notes. According to the new study, the dinosaur lived among similar horned species in swamps and floodplains along the island's east coast.

“The fossil was discovered on private property in 2019 by Mark Eatman, who is a commercial paleontologist,” Sertich reports. “He goes out and digs up fossils to eventually sell them.”

Itman has unearthed other important specimens in the past, including one of the most complete Tyrannosaurus rex skeletons ever discovered. He found that the fossil was related to a Triceratops, hence its nickname, the “Dueling Dinosaurs.” First discovered in 2006, it was acquired by the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences in Raleigh after several attempts to sell it to private buyers and a legal battle over its status. The museum put it on public display in late April.

Locyceratops is a “success story,” Sertich says, because the museum acquired it (for an undisclosed sum) straight out of the ground. “Often these fossils end up in private hands. As scientists, we don't know where they go, they just disappear. The public can't see them, scientists can't study them, new species don't get new names. Essentially, they are lost,” he said.

“But not in this case. Once a fossil ends up in a museum, scientists can study it endlessly. In addition, it is on display for the public to see and enjoy.”

Locyceratops has been on display at the Museum of Evolution since March 2023. This specimen was nicknamed Loki, foreshadowing its full taxonomic name, Lokiceratops rangiformis, which is both a tribute to the Norse god Loki and a reference to the variety of shapes found on the dinosaur's skull, suggesting that it was an entirely new species to science.

“It originally looked like a famous dinosaur called Medusaceratops. But when we reassembled the skull, the number of antlers and their shape indicated that it was a different species,” Sertich said, noting that the antlers exhibited the asymmetry found in caribou and reindeer antlers today.

Locyceratops has obvious similarities to the famous Triceratops, but the newly named species lived about 12 million years earlier and belongs to a separate lineage, Sertich said. Fossils of four other species of similar horned dinosaurs with which it shared its habitat were discovered in the same area. Three of them have been given names—Medusaceratops, Albertaceratops and Wendiceratiops—but the classification of the fourth is unknown.

“All of these dinosaurs are generally similar to Triceratops in that they have horns on their faces,” Sertich said. “Lociceratops, in particular, has the same horns as Triceratops above the eyes, but they curve to the sides rather than pointing forward.”

Another unique feature of horned dinosaurs is the frill, a large shield that runs from the back of the head to the neck. Different species of horned dinosaurs have distinct horns along the edge of the frill.

“Triceratops has very small triangular horns, almost invisible,” Sertich said, “but this dinosaur and many of its close relatives have huge paddle-shaped horns on back, as well as smaller horns along the edges of the frill.”

According to Sertich, the fossil belongs to a dinosaur that was about the size of a large rhinoceros at the time of death, and skull decorations were used to attract a mate, intimidate a rival or, more broadly, for identification among members of its species.

Eatman discovered about 75% of the skull, as well as some parts of the femurs, limbs and humeri. However, until now only the skull was on display at the Museum of Evolution. It also contains the skeleton of an Allosaurus, a large carnivorous dinosaur similar to the Tyrannosaurus Rex, and is visited by about 300,000 people annually.

A reproduction of the skull, as well as a full head sculpture covered in skin and based on what researchers think the dinosaur might have looked like, will be on display at the Utah Museum of Natural History in Salt Lake City starting Thursday.

Palaeontologists who did not take part in the study expressed their enthusiasm for the find, CNN notes.

“It's a remarkable discovery of a dinosaur with real personality and character,” said Steve Brusatte, head of the department of paleontology and evolution at the University of Edinburgh in the United Kingdom.

“His 'headgear' looks like something a rocker would wear on stage. in the style of heavy metal. It belongs to the same group as Triceratops, but has its own style, like dozens of other horned dinosaurs that have been found recently,” Brusatte said. “The horns and frills of these dinosaurs were their distinctive features, billboards to attract mates and intimidate rivals. And each new discovery seems stranger than the previous one.”

According to David Norman, professor of vertebrate paleobiology at the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom, Locyceratops is another remarkable display of dinosaur sexual experimentation.

“The larger and fancier, perhaps even more colorful, the jewelry, the more attractive the wearer may appear to potential partners,” Norman said. “Thus, as with the unusual birds of paradise, sexual selection may have led to the evolution of extremely striking, even bizarre, features.”

“This study provides a very interesting description of another horned dinosaur from the Late Cretaceous, and there's no question that it's something new,” said Tyler Lyson, a paleontologist and curator at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science. “I'm amazed at how many horned dinosaurs, all with wonderfully decorated horns and frills, have appeared in this period of time,” he wrote in an email. “The bodies of these horned dinosaurs are very similar, but their heads are decorated with some kind of wild headdress.”

Lyson added that similar appendages are found on the heads of horned lizards, except that these horned dinosaurs have them attached to multi-ton bodies.

“It is also funny and, I hope, inspiring that here in North America, where there has been intensive search and study of dinosaurs for the last hundred plus years, so many new species are still being found “, – he said. “Who knows what else is waiting to be discovered.”

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