Rhinorex condrupus, a newly discovered hadrosaur had a distinctive nose, the purpose of which is not known. Named by Terry Gates, from North Carolina museum of Natural Sciences, and Rodney Sheetz from the Brigham Young Museum of Paleontology, they came across the fossil in storage at BYU. It was first excavated in the 1990s from Utah’s Neslen formation and had been studied primarily for its well-preserved skin impressions. When Gates and Sheetz reconstructed the skull, they realized that they had a new species. This dinosaur lived in what is now Utah approximately 75 million years ago during the Late Cretaceous period.
Rhinorex, roughly means “King Nose”. It was a plant eater and a close relative of Parasaurolophus and Edmontosaurus. Instead of a crest on top of his head, this dinosaur had a huge nose. When asked about the purpose of such a large nose, Gates said, “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, recognizing members of its species, or even as a large attachment for a plant-smashing beak.”
“We had almost the entire skull, which was wonderful,” Gates went on to say, “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.”
Gates estimates that Rhinorex was about 30 feet long and weighed over 8,500lbs. It lived in a swampy estuarial environment, about 50 miles from the coast. It is the only complete hadrosaur fossil from the Neslen site, and it helps fill in some gaps about habitat segregation during the Late Cretaceous period. Other hadrosaurs from the same time period have been found but they were located about 200 miles farther south and were adapted to a different environment.
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. Based on materials provided by North Carolina State University.
No matter how long the winter, spring is sure to follow.