STL Science Center

STL Science Center

04 October 2014

Many Horned Faces

The sheer number of ceratopsian skulls can be perplexing when it is noticed how few have postcranial bodies. In terms of overall fossil numbers Anchiceratops is fairly well represented and this gives a fairly good picture of what the animal looked like for illustrators to begin their interpretations with. The most interesting aspects of ceratopsian illustration, in my mind, have always been the beaks and the frills. The horns do wonderful things in some illustrations and bodies are never too far from the average ceratopsian body, just like interpreted hadrosaurs.

Anchiceratops of Horseshoe Canyon Cretaceous Craig Dylke 2013 under Creative Commons license 3.0
One of my favorite interpretations so far this week has been Craig Dylke's underwater Anchiceratops. In part this is due to the scene but also because the beak on his animals is enormous and it makes me wonder what exactly a version of this animal that fed on soft underwater grasses like a hippo or manatee would need so much keratin for. Granted the beak itself is not indicative entirely of what was eaten or how much sheering power there was on that part of the jaw, but it seems like heavy machinery in a soft food world. Either way, the idea that some ceratopsians may have been hippo-like has been courted a number of times in the history of our knowledge of them and it is always interesting to see them interpreted as such.

©Mariana Ruiz Villarreal
The tried and true interpretation of a terrestrial ceratopsian is always welcome of course. The highlights here are more on the subdued ornate frill of the skull. The triangular edges of the frill are covered in soft tissue here and, despite the angle, that tissue appears to really downplay that ornamentation. The horns are average horns for the dinosaur and the beak is a very ceratopsian beak. The illustration is not boring or just the average ceratopsian splashed with the name Anchiceratops, the dinosaur is just, potentially, that average looking. It is pretty amazing how non-fantastic dinosaurs could have been, and that is why illustrations like this that show them as "mundane" looking animals are important and pretty fantastic in their own way.

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