Ceratosaurus Nasal Horn

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Ceratosaurus Nasal Horn

Cast of fossil Ceratosaurus nasicornis skull in American Museum of Natural History:
Cast of fossil Ceratosaurus nasicornis skull in American Museum of Natural History
One of the most unusual and distinctive features of Ceratosaurus is the horn on its nose. Indeed, "a narrow rounded horn core centrally placed on the fused nasals" has been described has been described one of the distinguishing features of the genus.

An important question is what purpose did this horn serve during the animal's life?

Othniel C. Marsh who in 1884 discovered, named, and scientifically described Ceratosaurus, considered the nasal horn to be "most powerful weapon", and thought it likely that the animal used it both offensively and defensively. This opinion was also supported by Charles W. Gilmore, who wrote his own description of Ceratosaurus in 1920.

Since the 1980s however, another view has begun to prevail. British paleontologist, David Bruce Norman suggested in 1985 that the purpose of the horn was "probably not for protection against other predators", but instead used in intraspecies contests between males for breeding rights. Gregory Scott Paul (1988) also suggested it was used in intraspecies breeding contests, and depicted the horn being used this way, and T. Rowe and J. Gauthier (1990) suggested that the horn served no role in physical contests but was "probably used for display purposes alone".

If, as modern researchers suggest, the horn may have served a display function, it seems likely that it would have been brightly colored. Of course, we do not know this to be a fact - since fossils do not generally preserve evidence of their original coloring.

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