Nasutoceratops: 'Big-nose, horn-face' dinosaur described

Artist's impression of Nasutoceratops titusi The dinosaur roamed the Earth about 75 million years ago, during the Late Cretaceous period

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An unusual new species of dinosaur, unearthed from the deserts of Utah, has been described by scientists.

The 5m-long (15ft) beast is a member of the triceratops family, but with a huge nose and exceptionally long horns, palaeontologists say it is unlike anything they have seen before.

It has been named accordingly as Nasutoceratops titusi, which means big-nose, horn-face.

The research is published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

Dr Mark Loewen, from the University of Utah and Natural History Museum of Utah, told BBC News: "This dinosaur just completely blew us away.

"We would never have predicted it would look like this - it is just so outside of the norm for this group of dinosaurs."

Fearsome vegetarian?

The creature was first discovered in 2006 the Grand Staircase-Escalante Monument area of Utah.

Start Quote

The horns are by far the absolute largest of any member of its group of dinosaurs”

End Quote Dr Mark Loewen University of Utah

However, it has taken several years to prepare and then study the fossil in detail.

The rocks it was found in date to about 75-million-years old, so the beast would have roamed the Earth during the Late Cretaceous period.

"The horns are by far the absolute largest of any member of its group of dinosaurs - they curve sideways and forwards," explained Dr Loewen.

"In addition it has the biggest nose of its group too."

He added that it also had a scalloped frill at the back of its head.

Nasutoceratops was also hefty, weighing about 2.5 tonnes, and with its unusual looks it would have cut a fearsome figure.

However this species, like all members of the triceratops family is a herbivore. It would have been more concerned with feasting on plants in its tropical, swampy surrounds than terrorising other dinosaurs.

'Treasure trove'

Skull of Nasutoceratops (Rob Gaston) The dinosaur has a big nose and sports two large horns above its eyes

Nasutoceratops is one of a number of species that have been discovered in this area of North America.

The desert where it was found would have once formed part of a continent called Laramidia, which has been described as a treasure trove for fossils.

Other plant-eating species, including two other kinds of horned dinosaurs and duck-billed hadrosaurs, were found close to Nasutoceratops titusi, suggesting that the creatures were able to co-exist.

Dr Loewen said: "All of these animals are upwards of three tonnes... You have an environment where you have all of these large herbivores competing for food.

"We aren't really sure how you can support all of these animals, but you do find them all in the rock at the same time."

He added that other unusual new species were also emerging from the site.

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