New Dinosaur Species Named After Norse God

Lokiceratops had massive, blade-like horns
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 21, 2024 1:35 PM CDT
New Dinosaur Species Named After Norse God
Lokiceratops rangiformis, or Loki for short.   (YouTube/Museum of Denmark)

A dinosaur that researchers say is new to science has been named after the Norse god Loki not because of any mischievous tendencies, but because of its massive, blade-like horns. In a study published in the journal PeerJ, researchers say Lokiceratops rangiformis was one of many ancestors of Triceratops that lived in a small area of what is now western North America around 78 million years ago. The huge horns at the back of its frill ("the shield of bone at the back of the skull") and asymmetrical horns at the peak resemble caribou antlers, the Warner College of Natural Resources reports. The name translates to "Loki's horned face that looks like a caribou."

The species was identified from the remains of a single specimen found in a fossil-rich area of the Montana badlands. Study co-lead author Joseph Sertich, a paleontologist at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, says that while some paleontologists argue that it could be a variant of another dinosaur, "the number of frill horns is dramatically different" from other species. He believes the extravagant display of horns may have developed as a way to attract mates. "We think that the horns on these dinosaurs were analogous to what birds are doing with displays," Sertich says. "They're using them either for mate selection or species recognition."

Lokiceratops was around 22 feet long and weighed up 11,000 pounds, researchers say. Michael Benton, a professor of vertebrate paleontology at the University of Bristol, tells NBC News that it appears to be a new species. It was found in the same layer of rock as four other species. Benton says "small-scale evolutionary explosions of five or six closely related species all living and feeding close together" have also been observed with other species.

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Co-lead author Mark Loewen, a paleontologist at the Natural History Museum of Utah, says the name was inspired by the Norse god's helmet—and by the dinosaur's new home. The Lokiceratops skull, found by a commercial paleontologist on private land, was sold to the Museum of Evolution in Denmark. "They saved it by purchasing it, so now it's available in perpetuity for scientists to look at it," Sertich tells the New York Times. "We couldn't write a paper on a fossil sitting in a rich person's living room and being treated as art." (More dinosaurs stories.)

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