Bull or parrot?
Did we mention Nasutoceratops had a large nose? This artist's rendering -- with the scales above the nostrils seizing the light -- should drive the point home.
But why so large? Was this fellow the truffle-snuffer-upper of its time? Apparently not, as the olfactory sense seems to have been beside the point.
"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," Scott Sampson said in a Natural History Museum of Utah press release. Sampson, lead author of the research paper on the dino that was published Wednesday by The Royal Society, says the big nose is a mystery: "The function of this bizarre feature remains uncertain."
The theory regarding those swooping, bull-like horns is a little more certain, however. Despite the matador-piercing function that our use of "bull-like" might suggest, these horns apparently weren't designed for fighting predators. Rather, the horns involved -- quite appropriately -- horniness. The dominant hypothesis is that they were designed to impress members of the opposite sex -- and serve as a warning to members of the same sex who might want to make a move.
"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," says Mark Loewen, a co-author of the research paper who's also quoted in the release. A present day example of similar structures would be deer antlers.
As for the bony frill at the back of the animal's head, it would seem to be relatively unadorned, without the sharper, spike-like structures seen on the Triceratops.
July 17, 2013 2:24 PM PDT
Photo by: Lukas Panzarin/Natural History Museum of Utah
| Caption by: Edward Moyer
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