Sunday, April 23, 2017

Prenocephale: Beast of the Week

This week we will be checking out another dome-headed dinosaur.  Enter Prenocephale prenesPrenocephale was a plant-eating dinosaur that lived in what is now Mongolia, during the late Cretaceous, between 80 and 75 million years ago.  It would have measured roughly between six and eight feet long from beak to tail.  The genus name translates to "sloping head" because of the dramatic shape of this dinosaur's skull. 

Prenocephale life reconstruction by Christopher DiPiazza.

Being a member of the pachycephalosaurid family, the thick, rounded skull is not surprising.  However, within the group, Prenocephale had a particularly egg-like shape to its skull, which sloped dramatically towards the snout, which earned it's genus name.  On the top of the snout, Prenocephale had two rows of short horns that each turn into a wide, bar-shaped ridge above each eye.  This ridge, combined with the fact that it is attached to the rather extensive dome skull, would have given Prenocephale the appearance that it had a furrowed, "grumpy" look in life.  The back of the skull also has rows of small horns on either side.  As is the case with all pachycephalosaurids, it is uncertain as to what exactly Prenocephale was using this kind of skull for.  Perhaps they were using them as weapons?  Perhaps they were purely for show?  Maybe one day we will find out! 

Prenocephale skull cast.  This is part of my personal collection.  Clothespin for scale.

In addition to its dome and horns, Prenocephale has a few other notable features when it comes to its skull.  It's eye sockets are large, and face partially forward.  This tells us that it probably had good vision and could perceive depth in life.  It's beak was small, and very narrow, even compared to other known pachycephalosaurids.  This tells us that Prenocephale may have had a different preference of food, or perhaps had a different style of feeding in life.  Plant-eating animals with more narrow mouths tend to browse for specific leaves more, rather than simply sucking up any vegetation that was closest to their face.  The back of Prenocephale's jaws were lined with small teeth which would have been best at slicing up plants.

Sadly, only Prenocephale's skull was ever actually found, aside from a few small bones.  Therefore we still don't know exactly what the rest of its body looked like.  However, thanks to more complete skeletons of other, closely related, Pachycephalosaurids on the fossil record, it can be assumed that Prenocephale was an obligate biped, walking on two strong back legs, had relatively short front limbs, tipped with five short fingers at the end of each hand, had relatively wide hips for a dinosaur, and a tail that was thick and muscular at the base and thin and stiffened towards the end. 

That is all for this week!  As always feel free to comment below or on the facebook page!


Longrich, N.R., Sankey, J. and Tanke, D., 2010. Texacephale langstoni, a new genus of pachycephalosaurid (Dinosauria: Ornithischia) from the upper Campanian Aguja Formation, southern Texas, USA. Cretaceous Research, . doi:10.1016/j.cretres.2009.12.002

Robert M. Sullivan (2003). Revision of the dinosaur Stegoceras Lambe (Ornithischia, Pachycephalosauridae). of Vertebrate Paleontology: Vol. 23, No. 1, pp. 181–207.

T. Maryanska and H. Osmolska. 1974. Pachycephalosauria, a new suborder of ornithischian dinosaurs. Palaeontologia Polonica 30:45-102.

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