Newly Discovered Dinosaur Sure Had One 'Supersize Schnoz'

NPR icon by Mark Memmott
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The Proceedings of the Royal Society politely refers to it as a "short-snouted horned dinosaur."

National Geographic is less reserved and gets right to the obvious point: "Paleontologists have discovered a new dinosaur, a Triceratops relative with a supersize schnoz that once roamed present-day Utah."

The Natural History Museum of Utah said Wednesday of the discovery made by a University of Utah graduate student in 2006 that:

"Nasutoceratops titusi possesses several unique features, including an oversized nose relative to other members of the family, and exceptionally long, curving, forward-oriented horns over the eyes. The bony frill, rather than possessing elaborate ornamentations such as hooks or spikes, is relatively unadorned, with a simple, scalloped margin.

"Nasutoceratops translates as 'big-nose horned face,' and the second part of the name honors Alan Titus, Monument Paleontologist at Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, for his years of research collaboration."

As for that schnoz, the museum adds that:

"For reasons that have remained obscure, all ceratopsids have greatly enlarged nose regions at the front of the face. Nasutoceratops stands out from its relatives, however, in taking this nose expansion to an even greater extreme. Scott Sampson, the study's lead author, stated, '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 — and the function of this bizarre feature remains uncertain.' "

The scientists estimate that Nasutoceratops weighed about 2 1/2 tons and stretched about 15 feet. According to National Geographic, it "munched on plants in a swampy, Louisiana-like bayou."

All Things Considered is due to have more about Nasutoceratops later today. We'll add the audio of its report to the top of this post when it's ready.

Update at 4:30 p.m. ET. "A Face Only A Mother Could Love."

This dinosaur "looks like a giant bull with a parrot beak. It has a face that only a mother could love," Gregory Erickson, a paleobiologist at Florida State University, tells NPR's Rhitu Chatterjee during her report on All Things Considered.

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