Sunday, March 25, 2012

Creature Feature: Styracosaurus.

I went to the Field Museum yesterday. That was where I was reminded of mollusks with hats. It was part of "Evolving Planet," a massive exhibit showing life on earth since time began. A couple of guys in the section with dinosaurs rightfully pointed out that, man, some dinosaurs would make amazing wall decorations. Seriously, if the meteorite hadn't killed them, humans would be showing off ceratopsian heads like this:

That fine skull belongs to Styracosaurus, by the way. Styracosaurs were giant ceratopsians found in Cretaceous Canada. Like all ceratopsians, they were herbivores (although exactly what they ate is up in the air). Styracosaurs were up to 28 feet (5.5 meters) long and probably weighed around 3 tons.

Styracosaurus has one of the most distinctive skulls of all ceratopsians. Along with the usual nasal horns, Styracosaurus had horns around almost all of its skull. There were even horns on its cheeks - everything but horns on horns! As with other ceratopsians, nobody knows what these horns were for. They looked amazing regardless.

We also do not know much about the social habits of Styracosaurus. Like many horned and indeed a lot of herbivorous dinosaurs in general, it is assumed that they were herd animals. In the case of Styracosaurus, there were indeed a lot of individuals gathered in one place. Nobody really knows why; for all we know, the dinos were just taking a nice drink in a water hole and happened to die together. Again, nobody knows for real.

With such elaborate headgear, Styracosaurus is quite popular in dino-related media. Big franchises like Dinosaur King and Power Rangers have featured Styracosaurus and its amazing headgear. A 1933 King Kong movie featured a Styracosaurus as an enemy - did nobody tell the movie people that those were herbivores? Yeah, we're pretty much mounting them posthumously.

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