New Big-Nosed Ceratops Discovered in Texas

ceratops skull

Yet another new species of horn-faced, frill-fringed dinosaur known as a ceratopsid has been revealed in the American West, this time in the ancient sediments of Texas’ Big Bend National Park, just weeks after a similar, older horned dino — perhaps the Texan’s deep ancestor — was identified.

The giant herbivore that has emerged from Big Bend’s silstone bears some rather distinctive features — like an elongated snout; meter-long horns erupting above the eyes; and a flowing, flashy frill with gaping holes.

Paleontologists Steven L. Wick and Thomas M. Lehman — from the U.S. National Park Service and Texas Tech, respectively — identified the creature after discovering pieces of its ponderous, 2.1-meter-long skull while doing field work in Big Bend two years ago.

Skulls are often all that remain of ceratopsids — some scientists believe it’s because predators like Tyrannosaurus rex ate them whole, except for their spiky heads.

The Big Bend specimen constitutes a whole new genus and species, the paleontologists say in their report, published in the journal Naturwissenschaften: The Science of Nature.

Probably weighing in around 6,800 kilograms, the dino was among the largest of the chasmosaurs — the large-frilled variety of ceratopsid whose most famous members include the genus Triceratops.

(Read related story: “Triceratops ‘Family’ Unearthed in Wyoming, Expert Says“)

Wick and Lehman named it Bravoceratops polyphemus after the Rio Bravo del Norte — the Mexican name for the Rio Grande — whose wild waters carve the bend that is Big Bend.

The discovery comes just a few weeks after scientists said that another ceratopsian from the same family had been discovered in northeastern Montana.

Judiceratops tigris, reported by Yale University’s Dr. Nick Longrich, is thought to be the oldest known chasmosaur, having lived some 78 million years ago.

Longrich’s team also recently identified the remains of a new feathered dinosaur from an old quarry site in Big Bend National Park, adding further to the growing diversity of dinosaurs emerging from the ancient West.

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Sources:

• “A new ceratopsian dinosaur from the Javelina Formation (Maastrichtian) of West Texas and implications for chasmosaurine phylogeny,” Naturwissenschaften, June 2013.

• “Horned Dinosaur Discovery” Big Bend National Park

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