Diceratops

diceratops
Diceratops (Wikimedia Commons).

Name:

Diceratops (Greek for "two-horned face"); pronounced die-SEH-rah-tops; also known as Nedoceratops

Habitat:

Woodlands of North America

Historical Period:

Late Cretaceous (70 million years ago)

Size and Weight:

About 15 feet long and 2-3 tons

Diet:

Plants

Distinguishing Characteristics:

Two horns; odd holes on sides of skull

 

About Diceratops (Nedoceratops)

You can learn a lot about Greek numbers by studying ceratopsian ("horned face") dinosaurs and their distant and not-so-distant relatives.

There's no such animal (yet) as Monoceratops, but Diceratops, Triceratops, Tetraceratops and Pentaceratops make for a nice progression (alluding to two, three, four and five horns, as indicated by the Greek roots "di," "tri," "tetra" and "penta"). An important note, though: Tetraceratops wasn't a ceratopsian, or even a dinosaur, but a therapsid ("mammal-like reptile") of the early Permian period.

The dinosaur we call Diceratops also rests on shaky ground, but for another reason. This late Cretaceous ceratopsian was "diagnosed" at the turn of the 20th century by the famous paleontologist Othniel C. Marsh, on the basis on a single, two-horned skull lacking the characteristic nasal horn of Triceratops--and given the name Diceratops, by another scientist, a few years after Marsh's death. Some paleontologists believe this skull actually belonged to a deformed Triceratops, and others say Diceratops should properly be assigned to the synonymous genus Nedoceratops ("insufficient horned face.")

If, in fact, Diceratops winds up reverting to Nedoceratops, then the possibility exists that Nedoceratops was directly ancestral to Triceratops (this last, most famous ceratopsian only awaiting the evolutionary development of a third prominent horn, which should only have taken a few million years).

If that's not confusing enough, another option has been touted by the famously iconoclastic paleontologist Jack Horner: perhaps Diceratops, aka Nedoceratops, was actually a juvenile Triceratops, in the same way Torosaurus may have been an unusually elderly Triceratops with a grotesquely overwrought skull. The truth, as always, awaits further fossil discoveries.