Nasutoceratops titusi (S/F) / (S/F-JWE)

Nasutoceratops (meaning “large-nosed horned face”) is a genus of centrosaurine ceratopsid dinosaur which originally lived during the Cretaceous period, 76 to 75.5 million years ago. Its genus name comes from the height of its beaked snout. The specific epithet of the only known species, N. titusi, honors Alan L. Titus, who helped to recover fossil remains of this animal. It lived in North America, in the area which is now Utah.

Remains of Nasutoceratops were first found in 2006 at the upper Kaiparowits Formation, which is located within Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in Utah. The discovery was a part of the Kaiparowits Basin Project carried out by the University of Utah. Its discoverer, Eric Karl Lund, originally named it Nasutuceratops in his 2010 thesis; in 2013, paleontologists recognized the validity of the genus and amended the spelling to its current format. Fossil remains of this species are rare. Known remains that have been found include parts of the skull, forelimbs, shoulders, and vertebrae of two adults and a squamosal bone of a subadult.

International Genetic Technologies, Inc. had managed to clone this species from ancient DNA found in Campanian amber samples sometime prior to 2015. Its existence, however, was mostly unknown until early 2019.

Description

Nasutoceratops is the defining member of the ceratopsid tribe Nasutoceratopsini, and can be easily distinguished from other InGen ceratopsians by its distinctive bull-like horns. Its skull reaches an average length of 1.5 meters (4.9 feet) in fossils, with an overall body length of 4.5 meters (14.8 feet), but cloned InGen specimens have been known to grow larger than this. Its weight is estimated to be 1,360.8 kilograms (1.5 US short tons) from fossils, but as InGen Nasutoceratops are known to grow larger than fossils indicate, they are likely heavier as well.

The horns of Nasutoceratops curve inwards and then upward toward the tips, making them formidable offensive weapons. Its horn arrangement has been likened to that of modern-day cattle. It also has the large bony parietosquamosal frill common to ceratopsians, which provides protection to its neck; unlike its relative Triceratops, its frill is not solid but rather has holes called fenestrae which reduce its weight (these are not as extreme as those of InGen’s Sinoceratops, which have the fenestrae completely exposed). The Nasutoceratops does have a nasal horn, but it is low, long, and narrow; blending into the contour of the tall snout, it can be easily overlooked and is not a distinct feature. The nasal cavities are large, used either for producing vocalizations or enhancing the animal’s sense of smell. Its eyes have rounded pupils similar to those of birds.

Like all ceratopsians, its mouth is beaked. It has up to twenty-nine tooth positions in its upper jaw, each of which contains several stacked teeth; when one tooth wears out and is lost, another has already developed to take its place. The tongue is slightly tube-shaped, thick and muscular.

Profile view of the head of an adult female Nasutoceratops

The osteoderms on its frill perimeter, called epiparietals and episquamosals, are semicircular. In fossils, there are a total of twenty-three or twenty-five, eleven or twelve on each side and one in the middle. Of these, four or five are epiparietals and seven are episquamosals. InGen’s specimens are known to sometimes have fewer, with ten on either side making a total of twenty; these bones may also have a more pointed shape than in fossils. The cheek horns, or epijugals, are larger than those of other centrosaurines, reaching lengths of 85 millimeters (3.3 inches); on the midline of its frill, it also possesses an additional five epiparietal osteoderms.

Post-cranially, its body appears similar to those of other ceratopsians. The torso and hips are bulky, the legs robust and powerful. Like other InGen ceratopsians, its toes are less distinct than those of its fossilized counterparts, its feet somewhat elephant-like. The tail is short, used more for balance than any other function. The body is covered in scaly skin; its scales are arranged in a trihexagonal pattern with eight-to-eleven-millimeter hexagonal scales surrounded by smaller triangular scales.

The color of this animal is mostly a dusty blue-gray, though the horns and osteoderms appear white. The horns may be tipped in black, similar to those of some modern bovines. Nasutoceratops has brighter colors on its head and back; it shows dark red-orange patterning, primarily on the frill but also on the sides of the head and extending down the back. The frill also has white circular patterning, which enhances its visual appearance for display purposes.

Growth

Juvenile and adult stages of the Nasutoceratops are fairly well understood. When it hatches, the animal’s osteoderms are not yet developed, growing in during adolescence. Its horns are considerably shorter at this stage; only the two supraorbital horns are really noticeable in the juvenile, and they curve noticeably upward. Its frill, while already strong, has yet to grow out to the full size of the adult’s. Coloration of the juvenile is less vibrant, and the animal’s body overall appears darker and duller. This presumably helps it camouflage while it is smaller and more vulnerable to predators.

Their growth rate is unknown; a male and female were fully mature by April 21, 2019, but the dates on which they hatched are not known (though presumably close to 2015 as they were not acknowledged by Claire Dearing of the Dinosaur Protection Group).

Sexual Dimorphism
Male (left) and female (right) adult Nasutoceratops. A couple-months-old juvenile can be seen in between, in the lower part of the image.

The male Nasutoceratops can be told apart from the female primarily through side-by-side comparison, as their coloration is not exceedingly different. Males grow slightly larger than females, and have longer horns as well as more prominent osteoderms on the frill border.

Habitat

Unlike Triceratops, which primarily favors grassland and sparser forests, Nasutoceratops is quite at home in densely-forested regions. While they can survive in areas affected by human activity, they prefer to remain away from cities and towns. Its habitat in prehistory was a wet and humid coastal region, similar to the redwood forests of the Pacific Northwest where they have been known to live in the modern day.

It is capable of surviving in cooler temperatures and in regions with seasonal temperature and weather variability. In northern California where a breeding pair is known to have settled, temperatures in the winter can drop to thirty-eight degrees Fahrenheit, while during the summer temperatures may rise up to seventy-one degrees. Of course, if this animal lived on Isla Nublar, it must be capable of surviving temperatures at least ten or twenty degrees hotter.

In Jurassic World: Evolution, the Nasutoceratops requires 8,428 square meters of grassland and 1,738 square meters of forest in its habitat in order to be comfortable.

Isla Nublar

It is unknown when Nasutoceratops was first bred, but it is generally believed that Isla Nublar was its first habitat following de-extinction. It is absent from a Dinosaur Protection Group list of animals that lived on the island, leading to the suggestion that it was not bred there; however, other animals such as Teratophoneus and Peloroplites that are confirmed to have been bred on Isla Nublar were also absent from this list. It was likely bred sometime shortly before 2015 and maintained in the restricted area of the island.

On June 23, 2018, many of Isla Nublar’s surviving dinosaurs were moved off the island by means of the S.S. Arcadia due to the impending eruption of Mount Sibo. If any Nasutoceratops were left on the island, they would have either perished in the eruption or starved once their normal food sources were eliminated. A mated pair of Nasutoceratops, however, were among the dinosaurs which were moved to the Lockwood estate.

Isla Sorna

There is no evidence that Nasutoceratops has ever been bred on Isla Sorna.

Other

This horned dinosaur evolved in North America, inhabiting the southwest around 76 million years ago. During this part of the Cretaceous period, the continent was split in two by the Western Interior Seaway; the part of North America where Nasutoceratops lived was the subcontinent of Laramidia. It was found on coastal plains not far from the sea, though it probably ranged farther inland as well. Changing environmental conditions caused it to become extinct after about 1.5 million years, though some samples of DNA survived the ravages of time. These samples were discovered by scientists in the twenty-first century and used to reconstruct new Nasutoceratops.

An adult male and adult female Nasutoceratops were held at the personal estate of Benjamin Lockwood as of June 24, 2018; during an incident which occurred that night, they were released into the surrounding woodland. The two Nasutoceratops remained together as a mated pair, migrating southward. On April 21, 2019, they were spotted by rangers and campers in Big Rock National Park roughly 20 miles south of the Lockwood estate, and produced a single offspring during the intervening time. This makes Nasutoceratops the first de-extinct animal confirmed to have bred on U.S. soil.

Behavior and Ecology
Activity Patterns

Nasutoceratops is among the few herbivorous dinosaurs which appears to be at least partly nocturnal, as it has been spotted foraging for food at night in the wild. This may be an adaptation to avoid humans, which are mostly diurnal animals. Numerous animal species, mainly mammals, have been observed adopting nocturnal habits in order to avoid humans, so this behavior is not without precedent in nature.

Diet and Feeding Behavior
Mother and infant Nasutoceratops forage for food together, Big Rock National Park, CA (4/21/2019)

This is a herbivorous dinosaur, primarily feeding on low-growing plants which it crops using its beaked mouth. The forested habitats it is known to live in would provide it with ample shrubbery and bushes to feed on. Its relative Triceratops is known to swallow stones, called gastroliths, every few weeks to assist with digesting food since it cannot chew; it is possible that Nasutoceratops engages in similar behavior.

On occasion, Nasutoceratops is known to experimentally feed on unfamiliar food items to determine whether they are edible. This can result in it consuming processed foods that humans leave behind.

In Jurassic World: Evolution, this dinosaur prefers to eat horsetails, but will also settle for rotting wood. Pawpaws, mosses, and cycads may cause digestive issues and other health concerns.

Social Behavior

Much like Triceratops, this dinosaur lives in small family groups, which may consist of a mated pair and their offspring. Such a family group was observed in Big Rock National Park in 2019; this may have represented the entire remaining Nasutoceratops population at the time, and therefore it is not known if they naturally form larger social groups than this. Pairs of Nasutoceratops are protective of one another, and adults constantly watch for danger to protect younger animals. If they detect a threat, they will alert the others with loud vocalizations.

The colors on the frill of Nasutoceratops indicate that it engages in face-to-face social displays. Because both the males and females have these patterns, they are not solely for courtship but serve other communicative functions. This contrasts with Triceratops, which does not have decorative patterns on its frill and instead uses it only for protection during combat. The Nasutoceratops may use its horns during intraspecific combat to establish dominance, similar to other ceratopsians.

In Jurassic World: Evolution, it forms social groups of at least three animals and up to ten.

Reproduction

All dinosaurs lay eggs to reproduce. Male Nasutoceratops most likely use their long horns and dramatic frills to attract mates, with longer horns and brighter colors being more attractive. Like many ceratopsians, they probably also use their horns when competing for mating rights. Ceratopsians have cloacae, similar to many modern birds, which house the reproductive organs.

The nests or eggs of this dinosaur have not yet been observed, but most ceratopsians lay rounded eggs in nests on the ground. In medium-sized to larger dinosaurs, incubation periods of six months are typical. Infant mortality rates may be high; only one reproductive pair has been observed, but they had just a single offspring at the time. Both parents will protect the offspring, though it is likely to remain closer to its mother. The adults form long-term monogamous bonds that help them better protect their young.

While the maturation rate is unknown, a juvenile seen on April 21, 2019 was able to keep up with its mother, forage for food, and defend itself from danger to some degree. The gestation period of the largest modern reptiles and birds ranges between weeks and months, so it is not known exactly when the parents of this infant mated; however, the egg was certainly laid no earlier than June 25, 2018. Larger dinosaurs typically have incubation periods of six months to a year, suggesting that this individual hatched during midwinter or spring. At only a few months old, an infant Nasutoceratops may begin showing the first signs of self-reliance.

This may indicate that Nasutoceratops has its mating season during the spring and summer, or what in Costa Rica would be the rainy season. Further observation will be necessary to determine if relocation to the North American mainland will alter the breeding patterns of this dinosaur.

Communication

Like many ceratopsians, Nasutoceratops communicates with others of its kind using low-pitched moaning and grumbling noises. Mothers will frequently vocalize with their offspring, which make higher-pitched sounds; their voices deepen as they grow. These parent-child interactions help to keep in touch while traveling and foraging.

When alarmed, Nasutoceratops can make a loud groaning call somewhat like an alarmed cow, which alerts others nearby to danger. Infants will respond to this cry by rushing to their parents for protection, while adults will rally together to drive off a threat. These loud bellows and snorts can also be used for interspecific communication, warning potential predators to back down. Predators may also be warned with visual displays, such as waving the horns back and forth or making mock charges.

Ecological Interactions

Nasutoceratops has a fairly small population when compared to some other de-extinct species, so its ecology is still poorly understood. However, fossil evidence and modern studies suggest that it can tolerate a fairly busy ecosystem with plenty of other animals, both predators and fellow herbivores, about. The area in Northern California where Big Rock National Park is located is home to many species of modern animals, including large herbivores such as the mule deer and Roosevelt elk. Human activity has reduced the population of large predators in that area, but did also introduce larger carnivorous dinosaurs, including at least one Allosaurus. This theropod may have difficulty bringing down a healthy adult Nasutoceratops, but is a major threat to juveniles.

Despite its undeveloped horns, a baby Nasutoceratops can still use its bony head frill in self-defense against predators.

When confronted by a predator, Nasutoceratops will use its horns to defend itself. The horns are long and pointed, easily capable of inflicting wounds to most predators. Their strength and orientation also means that they can be placed underneath a taller predator and used to flip it over, or topple it by striking the legs. Juveniles with less-developed horns are more vulnerable, but do possess at least one defensive technique: they will turn their heads to the side as a predator aims to bite them, increasing the chances that the predator will bite onto the powerful bony frill instead of the softer and less protected body. This gives the juvenile a better chance of escaping alive.

Browsing, rubbing its horns on trees, and pushing plant life aside as it moves are all ways that a large ceratopsian such as Nasutoceratops can reshape its environment. As there are only a few of these animals currently alive, though, their impact on plant life is minimal.

During the Cretaceous period, Nasutoceratops was affected by hematophagous insects such as gravid female mosquitoes. This is one possible way that InGen could have obtained the dinosaur’s DNA. However, it is not known if modern mosquitoes bite it.

In Jurassic World: Evolution, they are susceptible to hookworm infection, but are not known to suffer from campylobacteriosis.

Cultural Significance
Symbolism

While this is a somewhat well-known dinosaur in paleontological circles, it is perhaps less known to the general public than its famous relative Triceratops due in part to the fact that it was never exhibited in Jurassic World. However, it has gained fame and notoriety since its involvement in a major incident in 2019. Nasutoceratops is now emblematic of the de-extinct animal rights controversy in American politics.

It is one of many dinosaurs to be named after a person, Alan L. Titus.

In Captivity

Since it was a fairly recently bred animal (even more recent than Sinoceratops, since Jurassic World‘s upper management was not yet informed of its existence), not much is known about how this dinosaur fared in captivity or what its specific needs are. It is assumed to be generally similar to other ceratopsians. It is unknown where it would have been exhibited in the park, but the Gyrosphere attraction is a likely candidate.

Science

This unusual-looking ceratopsian quickly became well known to paleontologists and even some members of the general public for its bovine horns and prominent nose. It provides information about the food web of the Kaiparowits Formation, where it does not appear to have been common but would have had a significant impact on its ecosystem as such a large herbivore. Nasutoceratops also highlights the diversity of ceratopsian evolution, which was becoming more and more evident in the 2010s.

It was apparently one of the last bioengineering projects to be completed at Jurassic World before the park closed in 2015, and was probably created by Dr. Henry Wu and his genetics staff. This makes it one of the final additions to InGen’s genetic library before Dr. Wu left the company and was stripped of his credentials.

Politics

While it was not known at the time, Nasutoceratops was directly impacted by the de-extinct animal rights controversy which reached a boiling point in 2018. Its survival was threatened by volcanic activity, with the Dinosaur Protection Group campaigning to have Isla Nublar’s inhabitants safely relocated while numerous public figures and anti-environmental sentiment in the U.S. government pushing back. Ultimately the decision by the government was to do nothing, and the animals were instead illegally relocated to the North American mainland.

A brief media frenzy surrounded this animal in April 2019 after a family of these animals was involved with an incident at Big Rock National Park in Northern California. The two adults were among those released from the Lockwood estate on June 24 of the previous year; their offspring’s egg was laid and hatched in the intervening time. The ceratopsians wandered onto a campsite while foraging for food, and their presence attracted an Allosaurus which had also been released from the estate and migrated to Big Rock. No fatalities resulted from the ensuing conflict, but the allosaur did threaten a family of campers. The Nasutoceratops family themselves showed signs of curiosity regarding human-made objects in the campsite, but did not harm any person or property; all of the people at the campsite had taken shelter as per the park rangers’ orders, and so avoided any potential conflict with the herbivorous animals.

The Big Rock incident in 2019 has highlighted the issue of dinosaur safety in the Pacific Northwest and, increasingly, in other regions of North America (and the world, considering the de-extinction black market’s international reach). While the United States government has been working to ensure public safety, the presence of large dinosaurs wandering around essentially unchecked a full year after their release into the wild has suggested that despite government efforts these animals may be here to stay. The political debate about their existence continues.

Nasutoceratops is notable for being the first dinosaur confirmed to have bred on American soil.

Resources

All de-extinct organisms, by virtue of their genetic engineering and/or natural evolution, are sources of novel biopharmaceuticals not found in modern naturally-occurring life forms. This was most likely the reason that the two adult Nasutoceratops were captured and transported to the mainland by Ken Wheatley; they were among the animals meant to be sold on the black market by Eli Mills to finance the work of Henry Wu.

InGen intended to exhibit this dinosaur as a tourist attraction at Jurassic World, but its success was never tested. As with all herbivorous species its dung has potential as fertilizer.

Safety

Like most de-extinct animals, Nasutoceratops has not been extensively hunted by humans, and as a result is not inherently afraid of them like most naturally extant animals. While not an overly aggressive dinosaur, its large size nonetheless makes it potentially dangerous, and parents can become aggressive if they feel their offspring are in danger. It is best to treat it with respect and give it considerable distance.

So far there have been no confirmed cases of a Nasutoceratops attacking a human, but caution should always be exercised around wild animals. Despite its size it is a prey species and thus may be spooked by sudden movements or loud sounds, which can lead to a person being crushed or gored. If you encounter one, it is best not to approach it from behind if you must approach at all; remain in its line of vision and do not move toward it suddenly. Should the animal charge, your best hope for survival is to get out of its reach by climbing somewhere it cannot go, such as up a tree or a boulder. Since it lives in forested environments, trees are fortunately often nearby. Hiding within a vehicle may also help, but remember that this animal is strong enough to flip most vehicles and crush smaller ones. If you cannot escape it by getting out of reach, dive to the side and try to stay out of sight in tall undergrowth, or else try to look non-threatening. Convincing the dinosaur that you are not a danger to it or its offspring is key to survival. Once it decides that you are not a concern, it may leave you alone, at which point you should quickly and quietly put distance between yourself and it.

Behind the Scenes

While the Nasutoceratops was designed for 2019’s Battle at Big Rock, its skull anatomy was part of the inspiration behind the hybrid Stegoceratops. However, this creature is said to be part Triceratops, not Nasutoceratops.

Notable Individuals

Nasutoceratops Family – first confirmed breeding dinosaurs on the North American mainland