Scientists Unveil Largest & Most Ornate Horned Dinosaur Species Ever Discovered

This herbivorous giant measured an impressive 22 feet in length and weighed about 11,000 pounds, making it the largest known herbivore in its ecosystem at that time.
Scientists Unveil Largest & Most Ornate Horned Dinosaur Species Ever Discovered
Scientists Unveil Largest & Most Ornate Horned Dinosaur Species Ever Discovered

A groundbreaking discovery in paleontology has unveiled a new species of dinosaur, named Lokiceratops rangiformis, renowned for its enormous size and elaborate horn structure. Detailed in a recent study published in the journal PeerJ, the fossils of Lokiceratops were unearthed on private land in Kennedy Coulee, nestled within the badlands of northern Montana near the U.S.-Canada border.

Belonging to the ceratopsid family, which includes famous members like Triceratops, Lokiceratops roamed the Earth during the Late Cretaceous period, approximately 78 million years ago. This herbivorous giant measured an impressive 22 feet in length and weighed about 11,000 pounds, making it the largest known herbivore in its ecosystem at that time.

What distinguishes Lokiceratops as a remarkable find are its distinctive horns, described by researchers as the largest and most ornate ever discovered within its dinosaur family. Instead of the typical nose horn found in many ceratopsids, Lokiceratops boasts two large and asymmetrical horns on each side of its frill, accompanied by a central spike on the frill itself. Additionally, more than 20 smaller horns adorn the edges of its frill, giving it a unique and formidable appearance.

The name "Lokiceratops" derives from Norse mythology, paying homage to the mischievous deity Loki and referencing the dinosaur's horned visage. "Rangiformis," meaning "looks like a caribou," underscores the resemblance of its horns to those of a caribou.

Dr. Joseph Sertich, a paleontologist from the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute and co-lead author of the study, expressed excitement about the find: "This is one of the most exciting dinosaurs I've had the privilege of working on. It has an extraordinary array of horns and spikes along its frill, including the largest number of horns ever seen along the frill's edge. It's also one of the largest members of its group of horned dinosaurs and among the largest ever found in North America."

The discovery of Lokiceratops began in 2019 when the fossils were initially uncovered. Since then, meticulous cleaning, restoration, and analysis have taken place, culminating in the reconstruction of its skull and partial skeleton. Dr. Mark Loewen, a paleontologist at the Natural History Museum of Utah and co-lead author, described the process of piecing together the fragmented skull bones, which ultimately revealed a dinosaur species unknown to science for nearly 78 million years.

To confirm Lokiceratops as a distinct species, researchers compared its bones with those of other dinosaurs in museum collections worldwide. This rigorous process solidified Lokiceratops as the fifth ceratopsid species identified in its North American habitat, suggesting a greater diversity of horned dinosaurs coexisting than previously understood.

Scientists Unveil Largest & Most Ornate Horned Dinosaur Species Ever Discovered
Scientists Unveil Largest & Most Ornate Horned Dinosaur Species Ever Discovered

The implications of this discovery extend beyond taxonomy. It provides valuable insights into the ecosystem dynamics of Late Cretaceous North America, highlighting the coexistence of multiple ceratopsid species akin to finding a variety of elephant species in the African Serengeti.

In recognition of its significance, the skull bones of Lokiceratops will be permanently displayed at the Museum of Evolution in Maribo, Denmark. Meanwhile, a full-sized reconstruction of its skull, complete with a sculpture, will be showcased at the Natural History Museum of Utah in Salt Lake City for the next six months.

As paleontologists continue to explore and excavate more sites, the discovery of Lokiceratops underscores the ongoing revelations and mysteries still waiting to be uncovered in the ancient history of our planet.

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