July 13, 2024


Scientists may have a new dinosaur species in the badlands of Montana.

Lokiceratops is possibly the fifth species of a large, horned family of dinosaurs found in the Kennedy Coulee, a dry canyon of fossil-bearing rock along the border of Montana and Alberta, Canada.

Part of the late Cretaceous Ceratops family, which includes the famous Triceratops, the Lokiceratops roamed the Earth nearly 78m years ago. At the time, the now dry climate was a swampland.

The dinosaur is named after Loki, the god of trickery and deception from Norse mythology. But the Lokiceratops’ connection to Loki has more to do with its physical features than its personality.

Like Loki, who wields blades in the stories, the newly discovered species sported two large “blade-like nostrils”, similar to those of a reindeer or caribou, as well as fanned frills around parts of the head and neck.

An artist’s impression of the newly identified Cretaceous period horned dinosaur Lokiceratops, whose fossils were unearthed in the badlands of Montana. Photo: Sergey Krasovskiy via Reuters

Mark Loewen, one of the paleontologists who contributed to an article about the find in the scientific journal PeerJtell Science News: “It is becoming increasingly clear that [horned dinosaurs] used this [bony features] as ornaments, to attract mates or to intimidate competitors of the same species.”

The Lokiceratops bears a striking resemblance to other species discovered in the region, such as the Medusaceratops.

Both are large herbivores with similar key features, but the Lokiceratops is “at least 20% larger than known adults of Medusaceratops“, according to the PeerJ article.

However, some scientists disagree that the Lokiceratops, Medusaceratops or other members of the Ceratops family found nearby – such as the Wendiceratops and Albertaceratops – are different species. They are actually evolutions of the same species, they argue.

The University of California Museum of Paleontology says: “In terms of animals alive today, it is perhaps best to think of ceratopsians – at least the larger ones – as analogues of elephants or rhinos: large herbivores in herds that relied on horns and attitude towards protecting themselves.”

According to the museum, the horned, herbaceous dinosaurs in the family Ceratopsidae are only found in the Late Cretaceous of North America. “They are among the last dinosaurs (except the birds natural).”



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