Sunday, May 4, 2014

Diablo the Ceratopsian and more by Jason Scott Dillingham

Many animals and reptiles that exist today can seem relatable to the creatures in the past.  Imagine the beautiful Serengeti, the dry sun beating on your face.  Suddenly you feel the ground pounding and across the way you notice a muscular grey animal with large plates covering its body charging on all fours through the wilderness, armed with a horn atop its nose.  
Now, notice the sun getting warmer and more humid; the plant life: taller, greener, everywhere.  The ground shakes even more as a “snorting, stampeding, five-ton animal the size of a car, with a giant bony frill on its head, and you've got a fairly accurate picture of a ceratopsian dinosaur such as Triceratops” - a larger friend of the rhinoceros - charges by (Carroll, 1988). 
Ceratopsians (Greek for “horned faces”) date back to the late Jurassic period in Asia.  These species preceded Triceratops (up to the Late Cretaceous) and lacked the frills and horns that Triceratops had. Over time, predators such as the Tyrannosaurus Rex  came along and the Ceratopsians slowly evolved to defend themselves (Strauss, 2014). 
On our Geology field trip to the Grand Staircase, we first had to transport - before we even got to any digging sites - a skull of a Ceratopsidea (a frilled Ceratopsian) named Diablo to a museum where he could be displayed for people to view.  It was exciting to relate how large the animal could have been by the size of its skull, and encouraged me, personally, to get into the field and begin finding new things.

Throughout the trip, we broke up into two/three groups, one with Scott Richardson, the other with Alan Titus.  I was fortunate to participate in the group with Scott that went to a site where a discovery had already been made, but not completed.  “[Scott] discovered what is thought to be a previously unknown species of dinosaur similar to a triceratops, the latest in an extraordinary series of dinosaur finds in the area over the past 15 years (Hollenhorst, 2014).”  The discovery is still unclear, but the excitement endures on.


Carroll, R.L. 1988. Vertebrate Paleontology and Evolution. W.H. Freeman and Company, New York.  Found on:

Strauss, Bob.  Ceratopsians - The Horned, Frilled Dinosaurs. . 2014

Photo courtesy of James Montgomery

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