An extravagantly ornamental dinosaur, Styracosaurus is one of those dinosaurs you could probably pick out in a mega-herd of dinosaurs, being the only ceratopsian (that I know of) which has long horns protruding from all around the neck frill.
Meaning of name: ‘Spiked-lizard’
Species: S. albertensis. There were once more species but they have since been reassigned to other genera, S. sphenocerus is now classified as a species of Monoclonius, S. makeli is now known as Einosaurus, S. parksi is now known to be the same as S. albertensis and S. ovatus is now classified as Rubeosaurus ovatus.
Classification: Reptilia, Dinosauria, Ornithischia, Ceratopsidae, Centrosaurinae, Centrosaurini, Styracosaurus.
Size: 5.5 to 6 meters (18 – 20ft) long.
Weight: 2.7 to 3.6 metric tonnes (2.9 – 4 Imperial tons).
Time: Campanian to Maastrichtian stages of the Late Cretaceous.
Location: Alberta (Canada) to Montana (USA).
Named by: Lawrence Lambe, in 1913.
There are several bonebeds* filled with the remains of thousands upon thousands of individual Styracosaurs, but amongst this wide selection of remains, there are very few undamaged skulls, with only one really well-preserved skull specimen in known existence, which is the one Lawrence Lambe based his original description of the species on.
*Bonebeds: a geological deposit filled with bones of any kind, often filled with sediment (which suggests an ancient body of water) or solidified tar (which points to there once being a tar pit).
What is interesting to note is that only juveniles of the genus have brow horns, which are clearly re-absorbed back into the body as they mature, why this is so is unknown.
The existence of sedimentary bonebeds points to herding behaviour, and the brain to body-weight ratio suggests an animal with intermediary-level intelligence (for a dinosaur).
Styracosaurus’ nose horn was roughly 60cm (2ft) long and about 15cm (6in) wide, which makes for a formidable horn. But these horns and the neck frill were definitely not designed for fending off predators. The horns would certainly be a challenge for a testy carnivore, but ceratopsian neck frills were recently proven to be quite brittle, meaning that, chances are, they were used more for display than anything else; which points to colourful frills with bright colours. Although one does imagine that males would have fought for breeding rights whenever breeding season came around.
Much of the recently discovered evidence suggests that dinosaurs were much more colourful than previously thought – so if you see an image of a Tyrannosaur sporting dark red colouration with black stripes, or a ceratopsian with a brightly coloured and patterned neck frill, don’t consider it too unrealistic, for those colours may not be too far from the truth.
This has been Styracosaurus, this has been me; and you’ve been reading Dinosaurs Made Easy.
Image credit: Dinopedia.wikia.com