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A new dinosaur species is on exhibit at the Natural History Museum of Utah

A dinosaur with orange and green adornments on its head plate stands in a swamp
Fabrizio Lavezzi
The Museum of Evolution, Knuthenborg
Lokiceratops lived in the swamps of what is now Montana.

Lokiceratops rangiformis is a new species of horned dinosaur that was recently discovered in northern Montana.

The research team included Mark Loewen, a paleontologist at the Natural History Museum of Utah and a professor at the University of Utah. He said this dinosaur is an earlier relative of the Triceratops dinosaur.

“So Lokiceratops looks kind of like Triceratops, but rather than having a boring, simple short shield, it has an elongate shield at the back of its head with giant blade-shaped paddles coming off of it, along with spikes, and smaller horns,” Loewen said.

Loewen said the dinosaur’s horns and ornaments were likely used to impress mates and intimidate rivals.

“So we've reconstructed this dinosaur with brightly colored horns because it's the simplest explanation when we think about modern dinosaurs, the birds, and what they're doing with their ornaments,” Loewen said.

Evidence suggests that, 78 million years ago, when Lokiceratops lived in North America, several closely related species of horned dinosaurs coexisted in the same area.

“But each one of the animals has a completely distinct pattern on the ornaments on the back of its head shield. And that's why you can have multiple species that functionally are eating the same things, doing the same thing. But maybe they're different colors. Maybe they have different courtship patterns,” Loewen said.

The museum is known for its ceratopsian wall, an exhibit of horned dinosaur skulls. Loewen says Utah has one of the richest fossil histories of this group in the world.

“But what we've learned from Lokiceratops is the diversity of these animals is even higher than we expected it to be. We may actually know less than 1% of the horned dinosaurs that ever existed. So we need to keep digging here in Utah and around the world to really understand these iconic animals,’ Loewen said.

For more information on the Lokiceratops, follow this link.

Caroline Long is a science reporter at UPR. She is curious about the natural world and passionate about communicating her findings with others. As a PhD student in Biology at Utah State University, she spends most of her time in the lab or at the coyote facility, studying social behavior. In her free time, she enjoys making art, listening to music, and hiking.