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Newly Discovered Montana Dinosaur Boasts Horns Resembling Norse God of Mischief Loki's Blades

New Montana Dinosaur Species Unveiled with Loki-Like Blade Horns
Source: Museum of Evolution

Scientists identified a new species of dinosaur that had a set of ornate horns on its head that resembled the blades wielded by Loki.

Jun. 25 2024, Published 11:29 a.m. ET

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Paleontologists have discovered a new species of dinosaur in Montana, distinguished by its ornate horns reminiscent of the blades wielded by Loki, the Norse god of mischief.

The species has been named Lokiceratops, with "ceratops" translating to "horned face" in Greek, according to a report.

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The fossilized skull of the dinosaur has been exhibited at the Museum of Evolution in Maribo, Denmark, for over a year without a name. This specimen was unearthed in the northern Montana badlands, about three miles south of the US-Canada border, around five years ago.

According to CNN, that area was once a subtropical coastal plain around 78 million years ago, forming a large island called Laramidia. The latest research, published in the journal PeerJ, indicates that Lokiceratops lived among other horned dinosaurs in the swamps and floodplains of Laramidia's eastern shore.

Joseph Sertich, a paleontologist with the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute and Colorado State University, and co-leader of the research, told CNN, "It’s an area that’s known for producing horned dinosaurs. In fact, there are four other species of horned dinosaurs known from this particular region. So when we started working on it, we assumed that it was going to be one of those four. We were completely shocked to find out that it was a totally new species."

Aside from its ornate horns, Lokiceratops closely resembles Triceratops, a herbivorous dinosaur from the last 3 million years of the Cretaceous Period. Officially named Lokiceratops rangiformis, this 22-foot-long dinosaur had two curved horns above its eyes, small horns on its cheeks and around 20 horns and spikes across its frills.

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Among the frill horns, two asymmetrical blade-shaped ones stood out, each about two feet long. Reuters noted these are the largest frill horns ever recorded in a dinosaur.

The research states, "The generic name refers to the god Loki from Norse mythology, and ceratops, (Greek) meaning 'horned face.' The species name refers to the bilateral asymmetry of frill ornamentations, similar to the asymmetry in antlers of the reindeer/caribou genus Rangifer."

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According to Reuters, the nomenclature also acknowledges the fossils' permanent home at the Museum of Evolution in Denmark. Regarding the purpose of these ornate horns, Sertich explained to Reuters that the horns and frills of Lokiceratops and other Ceratopsidae dinosaurs were mainly used for display. "These displays could have been used to intimidate rivals, attract mates or recognize members of the same species," he said.

The study found that Lokiceratops was one of five horned dinosaur species coexisting in the same ecosystem. Mark Loewen of the University of Utah and the Natural History Museum of Utah, a co-lead author of the study, compared this to finding five species of elephants living on the same savanna in Kenya.

Sertich elaborated, "This is the first time five ceratopsians have been recognized from the same ecosystem. For over a century, it was believed that no more than two could coexist in the same ecosystem, but emerging evidence here in Montana, and elsewhere in southern Laramidia, is revealing unexpected richness. This parallels a pattern seen in mammalian evolution that is still on display in east and south Africa with bovids — antelope and buffalo."


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