Sunday, October 26, 2014

Diabloceratops: Prehistoric Animal of the Week

Halloween is almost upon us!  Let's continue the theme from last week by checking out another dinosaur with a truly devilish flavor.  Enter Diabloceratops eatoniDiabloceratops was a centrosaurine ceratopid dinosaur, related to Styracosaurus, Nasutoceratops, and Pachyrhinosaurus, that lived in what is now Utah, USA, about 79 million years ago.  It measured about fifteen feet long from beak to tail (we don't know EXACTLY for sure since only the skull was ever found) and would have eaten plants.  The genus name, Diabloceratops, translates to "Devil Horn Face" in reference to this dinosaur's amazing horn arrangement, similar to those of depictions of devils in pop culture.  When alive, Diabloceratops shared it's habitat with the tyrannosaurid, Lythronax. (Which may have been an enemy in life!)

Life reconstruction of Diabloceratops eatoni by Christopher DiPiazza.

Diabloceratops is one of the the oldest large ceratopid found to date.  All ceratopids that have been found from older times are much smaller, like Protoceratops.  Not surprisingly, paleontologists suspect that despite it being classified as a centrosaurine ceratopid (large variety with thick noses) it also shared some characteristics with, and likely had a closer family history with its smaller relatives, like Protoceratops amongst its larger centrosaurine peers.  

Diabloceratops skull on display at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History.

Diabloceratops' horn arrangement is truly amazing and nothing like it exists on any other dinosaur.  Most prominent were the two upturned horns above its eyes which are relatively short on the fossilized skull but in life would have had a layer of keratin covering them, making them significantly longer.  On either side of its tall, harp-shaped frill, sat another pair of long, curved horns.  Diabloceratops also had small, almost unnoticeable horns on its nose.  It is likely these horns were a form of communication, or possibly sexual display, amongst DiabloceratopsDiabloceratops' snout was particularly short, and down-turned, even amongst the other members of its family, of which short, deep snouts are a defining characteristic.

Hope you enjoyed our devilishly dark dinosaur for this week!  The Halloween fun isn't over yet, though!  Stay tuned all this week up through Friday for a few more scary treats from Jersey Boys Hunt Dinosaurs!


Kirkland, J.I. and DeBlieux, D.D. (2010). "New basal centrosaurine ceratopsian skulls from the Wahweap Formation (Middle Campanian), Grand Staircase–Escalante National Monument, southern Utah", In: Ryan, M.J., Chinnery-Allgeier, B.J., and Eberth, D.A. (eds.) New Perspectives on Horned Dinosaurs: The Royal Tyrrell Museum Ceratopsian Symposium. Bloomington, Indiana University Press, pp. 117–140

J. I. Kirkland and D. D. DeBlieux. 2007. New horned dinosaurs from the Wahweap Formation, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, southern Utah. Utah Geological Survey Notes 39(3):4-5

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