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Chasmosaurus

KAZ - moh - SAW - rus

Marginocephalia/Ceratopsidae
Copyright 2007

Field Notes

Name Means: "Chasm lizard"
Length: 17 feet (5 m)
Diet: Herbivore (Plant-Eater)
Time: Late Cretaceous
Location: Texas, USA; Alberta, Canada

One of the earliest of the longer frilled dinosaurs, Chasmosaurus was a moderate-sized neoceratopsian. It had two short, upwardly curved horns above its eyes and a smaller horn on its snout. At the back of its long, narrow skull was a huge bony frill that stretched back over the animal's neck and shoulders. Within the frill were two enormous openings, or fenestrae, which made Chasmosaurus's frill much lighter than that of any of its relatives. The bony part of the frill, which had right-angled upper corners with small ornamental horns, consisted of little more than a framework for the openings. This spectacular feature, covered with skin, was almost certainly a device for courtship display.

Lawrence Lambe, working with the Sternberg family on the Red Deer River in Alberta, Canada, discovered Chasmosaurus. He named it in 1914 after the chasm in which he found it. This dinosaur is now known from several skulls and skeletons. From the skeletons we can observe that the vertebral column above the pelvis was reinforced by many ossified ligaments. The pelvis itself was fortified by eight fused vertebrae. These helped dissipate the shocks that this large animal generated when it moved quickly.

Early studies made on skulls from Alberta and the northern United States suggested that they belonged to several different species. Today, however, most paleontologists consider that the variations reflect male - female differences within the same species - C. canadensis. Another species, C. mariscalensis, from Texas, is known from pieces of the skull and isolated bones which together make up an almost complete skeleton. C. mariscalensis differed from its northern counterpart mainly by having larger, more backward-curving horns.

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