Call it the Jimmy Durante of dinosaurs‒ a recently discovered hadrosaur with a particularly distinctive nasal profile. The new dinosaur, named Rhinorex condrupus by palaeontologists from North Carolina State University and Brigham Young University, resided in what is now Utah about 75 million years ago during the Late Cretaceous period.
Rhinorex, which roughly translate to “King Nose”, was an herbivore and a close relation of other Cretaceous hadrosaurs like Parasaurolophus and Edmontosaurus. Hadrosaurs are usually identified by bony crests (palaeontologists have discovered that it had a fleshy crest). Rhinorex is also missing a crest on the top of its head; instead, this new dinosaur has a huge nose.
Terry Gates, a joint postdoctoral researcher with NC State and North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, and colleague Rodney Sheetz from the Birgham Young Museum of Palaeontology, stumbled upon the fossil in storage at BYU. The fossil was first excavated in the 1990s from Utah’s Nelsen formation, Rhinorex had been studied primarily for its well-preserved skin impressions. When Gates and Sheetz reconstructed the skull, they realised that they had a completely new species.
“We had almost the entire skull, which was wonderful,” Gates says, “but the preparation was very difficult. It took two years to dig the fossil out of the sandstone it was embedded in‒ it was like digging a dinosaur skull out of a concrete driveway.”
Based on the recovered bones, Gates has made the estimation that Rhinorex was approximately 30 feet long and weighted more than 8,500 lbs. it lived in a swampy estuarial environment, approximately 50 miles from the coast. Rhinorex is the only complete hadrosaur fossil from the Nelsen site, and it helps provide some missing information regarding habitat segregations during the Late Cretaceous.
“We’ve found other hadrosaurs from the same time period but located about 200 miles farther south that are adapted to different environments,” Gates says. “This discovery gives us a geographic snapshot of the Cretaceous, and helps us place contemporary species in their correct time and place. Rhinorex also helps us further fill in the hadrosaur family tree.”
When asked how Rhinosaur could have possibly benefited from a large nose Gates said, “The purpose of such a big nose is still a mystery. If this dinosaur is anything like its relatives then it likely did not have a super sense of smell; but maybe the nose was used as a means of attracting mates, recognising members of its species, or even as a large attachment for a plant-smashing beak. We are already sniffing out answers to these questions.”
Contributing Source: NC State University
Header Image Source: Wikimedia