STL Science Center

STL Science Center

27 August 2011

Styracosaurus images

Styracosaurus is all about the skull. As with most ceratopsian dinosaurs, whether neoceratopsia, centrosaurines, or even chaoyangosaurs, the most definitive element of identification and awe inspiring gasps is the skull of the animal. In Styracosaurus, this is especially true given the amazingly unique configuration of the sub-dermal horn structures which grow out of the post-orbital/squamosal frill structure. The above skull is found in the American Museum of Natural History. In examining illustrations and comparing them for today's presentation I used the AMNH's skull as a point of reference.

©Craig Brown
According to Gregory Paul Styracosaurus belongs in the Centrosaurus genus and not as its own separate genus. He also lumps in Pachyrhinosaurus, Monoclonius, Einosaurus, Achelousaurus, and of course Centrosaurus into his new definition of Centrosaurus. I honestly have not looked at the evidence enough myself to definitively agree, disagree, or partially bridge both states in regards to Paul's theory. The traditionalist in me disagrees, of course, but the scientist in me wants to figure out exactly how he came to this conclusion and make my own decision. Regardless, images like Craig Brown's Styracosaurus make it hard to equate these animals, in my mind, with the solid frilled Centrosaurs and the ramming-plate-nosed Pachyrhinosaurs, and this makes me feel skeptical. The nasal horns of the left and center, Styracosaurus do, however, match Paul's theory that Einosaurus may have been closely related because of the shape of these horns, but the nasal horn on the right-most dinosaur is straight up and down, which can be accounted for in many different ways such as sexual dimorphism, age, and the results of traumatic injuries during growth even. The frill, however, remains uniform to what we expect.

©Tucciarone and Poling
I have two different animals that involve the hand of Joe Tucciarone, who is a fabulous artist, that I wanted to share. The first is this animal to the left who is rearing up in quite the dramatic pose which he constructed with Jeff Poling. The important thing to notice in this and the following illustration is that not only is the pose remarkably similar in both illustrations but the horns coming from the frill are both incredibly accurate in reference to the AMNH skull and they are just about identical, the lower piece having the horns at a more vertical angle near the center of the horned frill, in both pieces that Tucciarone painted meaning that he is highly consistent which is a wonderful thing to see in any artist. The second image shows a Styracosaurus warding off a Daspletosaurus and I have used that image before in an article on Daspletosaurus. Both of Tucciarone's Styracosaurs have identical bodies as well, which, with all large ceratopsians is basically the equivalent to an elephant on growth hormones. This does not mean it is easier to draw the bodies of large ceratopsians, but it does mean that Tucciarone has shown the great amount of both girth and muscle mass found in these almost literally tanks of the Cretaceous. Styracosaurus, as shown in these rearing postures, is a force to be reckoned with almost as much as Triceratops is shown to be, albeit with less of a forward facing armament of death.

©Ryan Valle:
Just to show that Styracosaurus does not have to be all about the violence of predator versus prey I received permission to use this illustration from Ryan Valle, an independent freelance artist. His anatomical awareness is phenomenal, and the placement of the dinosaur in the scene is wonderful. As far as a fantastical piece goes and the idea of dinosaurs living and working with humans in the spirit of the Dinotopia books, which was not the exact aim of the artist based on his own description of the work, this illustration speaks volumes. The idea that such a violently portrayed or, conversely, docile and stupidly portrayed, animal can be so intelligent and well enough respected to be relied upon as a steady working animal is one of the heights of imagination. The interaction between the animal and the child exhibits curiosity which, given most predator versus prey works, is not usually readily shown in paleoart. Not that we can say that this is how a Styracosaurus would behave in the street, but we could hope, easily, that these animals would be such gentle giants and the portrayal of one of these animals as such is a wonderful addition to the illustrations we look at.

Let's have, before we dismiss for the day, a look at what a frill might look at with some color on it finally! All of the above Styracosaurs were devoid of color, but, for most animal behaviorists, almost any surface like the frill of a ceratopsian dinosaur would be a billboard for sex and intimidation. What would a drab brown or green frill be in either role as an intimidating weapon to frighten off predators or rivals or as a fashion statement to attract mates without a splash of color like the frill below? I will leave you to ponder that question!
©Ahrkeath (

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