Kosmoceratops – Ornate Horned Face Dinosaur

KosmoceratopsKosmoceratops means “ornate horned face”, and their faces certainly were ornate. In addition to the two long curved horns above their eyes and the small pseudo-horn above their nose, and the ridges along the edge of their large frill, the top of the frill was adorned with long spikes pointing downwards, making their skull look like it’s wearing an upside down crown. In total, Kosmoceratops had 15 spikes and horns on its head. And 15 is also the number of feet this dinosaur measured in length. 6 of those feet were the skull alone. The dinosaur stood from foot to top of ridge at about 6 feet high. Their frill is twice as wide as it is long. Like other ceratopsian dinosaurs, scientists think that they used their horns and frills to attract mates, not for fighting or defense, although they would undeniably have been useful for those purposes, too.


Kosmoceratops SkullKosmoceratops was a pretty recent discovery. A new excavation site in Utah was dicovered in the late 1990s, and Kosmoceratops was discovered in that site in 2007 by Scott Richardson. Richardson named his find in 2010. The full name of the dinosaur is Kosmoceratops richardsoni, after Scott Richardson. From that same excavation site, a handful of other ceratopsids have been found. In 2013, a study found that due to the vascular structure of Kosmoceratops, the dinosaur was likely warm-blooded, like mammals and birds are. Studies of the bones at this time also showed the researchers that Kosmoceratops could withstand very rapid growth, meaning they got very big very quickly, because of the warm climate in Utah at the time.


During the lifetime of Kosmoceratops,around 83 to 71 million years ago, North America was divided by an interior ocean, called the Western Interior Seaway. Utah was on the landmass called Laramidia (which was about 20% of the current size of North America), which was smaller than the landmass to the East, Appalachia. This placed Utah close to the coast, and the climate was wet and marshy. This terrain was abundant with cypress trees and ferns, which comprised a large part of the diet of Kosmoceratops, whose teeth were well adapted to consume large portions of dense, fibrous matter. On places of higher elevation, there were conifer trees, which Kosmoceratops also ate. Because of the wet and swampy ground, skeletal remains are often fragmented or not entirely preserved. This makes it difficult for paleontologists to determine if there was any scavenging done by other species in the area.


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In Laramidia, species were very isolated and divided into small habitats quickly after the landmass was formed. This is one of the most likely reasons for the ornate design of the horns and frills. Smaller populations tend to appear more extreme than gene pools that are larger. There was not as wide a selection of mates, and so the same traits that were favored became typical for the species sooner than usual.

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