Sunday, December 22, 2013

Pachyrhinosaurus: Prehistoric Animal of the Week

This week belongs to a unique ceratopsid dinosaur, PachyrhinosaurusPachrhinosaurus was a very successful plant-eater that lived in what is now Canada and Alaska during the Late Cretaceous.  There are actually three species within this genus that range in age from 73 million to about 69 million years old.  Pachyrhinosaurus was amongst the largest of ceratopsids, the biggest specimen measuring over twenty feet long.  The name, Pachyrhinosaurus, translates to "Thick Nose Dinosaur" because of its head ornamentation.  While many other ceratopsids had horns growing from their noses and brows, Pachyrhinosaurus had a wide, flat structure called a boss.  It did have horns on its frill, however.

Pachyrhinosaurus lakusai adult and young by Christopher DiPiazza.

Pachyrhinosaurus is a well-studied dinosaur, known from many specimens.  In fact, there were over a dozen skeletons of this dinosaur all discovered together in the same area in Alberta, Canada, called Pipestone Creek.  It is possible that the poor dinosaurs died trying to swim across a river that had flooded.  Amongst these specimens there were small juveniles all the way up to large adult animals.  This tells us that Pachyrhinosaurus was a dinosaur that, at least sometimes, lived in groups and most likely looked out for its young.

Pachyrhinosaurus lakusai skeletal mount

When alive, Pachyrhinosaurus would have co-existed with many other dinosaurs including Edmontosaurus regalis and the tyrannosaurid, Albertasaurus to name just a few.  Pachyrhinosaurus belongs to a group, or subfamily, called centrosaurinae within ceratopsidae.  Centrosaurine ceratopsids tended to have taller, thicker snouts, longer tails, and shorter frills than other large ceratopsids.  They also typically (not always) were devoid of long brow horns and instead sported large, bony structures on their snouts.  Other examples of centrosaurine ceratopids are Styracosaurus and Nasutoceratops.

Pachyrhinosaurus character from the new Walking With Dinosaurs 3D movie.

Pachyrhinosaurus is the star of the new movie, Walking With Dinosaurs 3D which came out in theaters just this past Friday!  The dinosaurs in this movie are amongst the most scientifically accurate to date since many paleontologists were consultants.  I haven't seen it yet but I definitely am planning to go within the next few weeks.  Pachyrhinosaurus is no newcomer when it comes to pop culture, however.  A few years back it was featured on a Canadian Coin that glows in the dark!

Shiny and glowy oohhh ahhhh!  The artwork on this coin was done by paleo-artist, Julius Csotonyi.

That's all for this week!   Join us next week for the last prehistoric animal review of 2013!  As always feel free to comment below or on our facebook page! 

References

Anthony R. Fiorillo and Ronald S. Tykoski (2012). "A new species of the centrosaurine ceratopsid Pachyrhinosaurus from the North Slope (Prince Creek Formation: Maastrichtian) of Alaska". Acta Palaeontologica Polonica 57 (3): 561–573. doi:10.4202/app.2011.0033.

C. M. Sternberg. 1947. New dinosaur from southern Alberta, representing a new family of the Ceratopsia. Geological Society America Bulletin 58:1230

Currie, P.J., Langston, W., and Tanke, D.H. (2008). "A new species of Pachyrhinosaurus (Dinosauria, Ceratopsidae) from the Upper Cretaceous of Alberta, Canada." pp. 1-108. In: Currie, P.J., Langston, W., and Tanke, D.H. 2008. A New Horned Dinosaur from an Upper Cretaceous Bone Bed in Alberta. NRC Research Press, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. 144 pp. ISBN 978-0-660-19819-4

E. B. Koppelhus. 2008. Palynology of the Wapiti Formation in the northwestern part of Alberta with special emphasis on a new Pachyrhinosaur bonebed. International Dinosaur Symposium in Fukui 2008: Recent Progress of the Study on Asian Dinosaurs and Paleoenvironments. Fukui Prefectural Dinosaur Museum, Fukui 65-66.

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