SALT LAKE CITY, Sept. 22 (UPI) — Horned dinosaurs, including one sporting 15 horns, whose fossils were discovered in Utah, were inhabitants of a “lost continent,” researchers say.
The giant plant-eaters were inhabitants of the “lost” continent of Laramidia, 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.
Scientists from the Utah Museum of Natural History and the University of Utah say the bigger of the newly discovered dinosaurs, Utahceratops gettyi, has a skull about 7 feet long.
Researcher Mark Loewen likened Utahceratops to “a giant rhino with a ridiculously super-sized head.”
The second new species, Kosmoceratops richardsoni, had a total of 15 horns — one over the nose, one atop each eye, one at the tip of each cheek bone, and 10 across the rear margin of the skull’s bony frill — making it the most ornate-headed dinosaur known.
“Kosmoceratops is one of the most amazing animals known, with a huge skull decorated with an assortment of bony bells and whistles,” researcher Scott Sampson said.
While the purpose of such horns is debated, the leading theory is that these features functioned to enhance reproductive success.
“Most of these bizarre features would have made lousy weapons to fend off predators,” Sampson said.
“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.”
The dinosaurs were discovered in Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, covering 1.9 million acres of high desert terrain in south-central Utah.
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