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Utahceratops

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utahceratops

Utahceratops (University of Utah)

Name:

Utahceratops (Greek for "Utah horned face"); pronounced YOU-tah-SEH-rah-tops

Habitat:

Woodlands of North America

Historical Period:

Late Cretaceous (75-65 million years ago)

Size and Weight:

About 20 feet long and 3-4 tons

Diet:

Plants

Distinguishing Characteristics:

Rhino-like horn on snout; large head and frill

About Utahceratops:

During the late Cretaceous period, from about 75 to 65 million years ago, the shallow Western Interior Sea carved out an "island continent" in the vicinity of modern-day Utah, which is where the remains of Utahceratops were recently unearthed. Although it wasn't quite as strange as Kosmoceratops, another brand-new horned dinosaur from Utah, Utahceratops certainly makes a strong entry in the ceratopsian family tree: this herbivore had a single, rhino-like horn projecting from the top of its snout, as well as a pair of steer-like horns jutting out sideways from the top of its eyes. Most alarmingly, the skull of Utahceratops was huge--about 7 feet long, which has prompted one paleontologist to describe this dinosaur as "a giant rhino with a ridiculously supersized head."

Although Utahceratops didn't look particularly strange--at least compared with other big-headed ceratopsians like Triceratops and Styracosaurus--the question remains: why did this dinosaur evolve such an elaborate head display? Well, the island habitat of Utahceratops may have had something to do with it--creatures in isolated environments tend to evolve in some very strange directions--but as with most such dinosaur appurtenances, it's clear that the oversized horns and frill of this dinosaur were meant to impress the opposite sex and help to propagate the species.

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