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Utahceratops gettyi

Name: Utahceratops gettyi
(Pronunciation: YOU-tah-sarah-tops GET-ee-eye)

Age: Late Cretaceous (~76 million years ago)

Where It's Found in Utah: Kane and Garfield counties, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, southern Utah.

Geologic Formation: Kaiparowits Formation (middle unit)

Classification: Ornithischia – Ceratopsia – Ceratopsidae - Chasmosaurinae

Description: Much like its relative Triceratops, Utahceratops has a large, elongate frill, and three horns. However, the horns over the eyes were not large like in Triceratops’. Rather, they were short, stubby, and pointed to the side.  Its nose horn stuck straight up, but wasn’t any longer than those over the eyes. Utahceratops’ beak-like mouth contained hundreds of closely-packed teeth in columns that formed a dental battery used for cutting and slicing up plants.  Like most horned dinosaurs (except Triceratops), Utahceratops had two giant holes in the bone of its frill to reduce the weight of its skull.  If these holes had been filled with bone rather then covered with skin, imagine how heavy its head would have been! Utahceratops was a big dinosaur. It stood 6 feet (2 meters) high and was 18-22 feet (6-7 meters) in length. The skull alone was 7 feet (2.3 meters) long!

Why It’s a Top NMHU Dinosaur: Utahceratops gettyi is named after two really cool things: the state of Utah and Mike Getty, NHMU's previous paleontology collections manager who discovered it. It is one of many dinosaur species excavated in southern Utah in the past few years that are totally new to science. The discovery of Utahceratops offers an intriguing clue about ancient life in western North America. Utahceratops and Kosmoceratops, another recently-identified species, lived in Utah at the same time that other species of ceratopsids lived in Montana and Alberta, Canada. The existence of these distinct northern and southern dinosaur assemblages leads paleontologists to think some kind of barrier near northern Utah limited the exchange of dinosaur species in the Late Cretaceous.  Was this barrier physical or climatic?  Paleontologists continue to investigate.

Where Can I See It?: The Past Worlds Gallery at the Natural History Museum of Utah.

Suggested Reading/References:
Getty, M. A., M. A. Loewen, E. Roberts, A. L. Titus, and S. D. Sampson. 2010. Taphonomy of horned dinosaurs (Ornithischia: Ceratopsidae) from the late Campanian Kaiparowits Formation, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah; pp. 478-494 in M. J. Ryan, B. J. Chinnery-Allgeier, and D. A. Eberth (eds.), New Perspectives on Horned Dinosaurs: The Royal Tyrrell Museum Ceratopsian Symposium. Indiana University Press, Bloomington.

Sampson, S. D., M. A. Loewen, A. A. Farke, E. M. Roberts, C. A. Forster, J. A. Smith, and A. L. Titus. 2010. New horned dinosaurs from Utah provide evidence for intracontinental dinosaur endemism. PLoS One 5:e12292, 1-12.

Image: © Victor Leshyk

Author: Deanna Brandau, Palentology Graduate Student at the Natural History Museum of Utah (2012)

See more of Utah's top dinosaurs.