Temporal range: Late Cretaceous
|An artist's illustration of Chasmosaurus belli|
Chasmosaurus (chas·mo·saur·us) was a ceratopsian dinosaur from Canada in the Cretaceous. Its name means 'opening lizard', referring to the large openings in its frill (Greek chasma meaning 'opening' or 'hollow' or 'gulf' and sauros meaning 'lizard'). With a length of 16–20 ft and a weight of 4 short tons, Chasmosaurus was a ceratopsian of average size. Like all ceratopsians, it ate plants. At first it was to be called Protorosaurus, but this name had been previously published for another animal. All specimens of Chasmosaurus were collected from the Dinosaur Park Formation of the Dinosaur Provincial Park of Alberta. C. russelli comes from the lower beds of the formation while C. belli comes from middle and upper beds.
The frill of Chasmosaurus has been described as "heart-shaped", since its bone structure is made up of two large 'loops' from a core bone.
Some finds have a few small bones, which may have grown from the edge of the frill. The frill may have been brightly colored too, to draw attention to its size or as part of mating display. But, the frill was so large and yet so weak (since most of it was skin stretched between the bones) that it could not have provided much functional defense. It may have just used to seem massive or control for temperature. Like most ceratopsians, chasmosaurs had three main horns on their face - one on the nose and two on the brow. Different fossil finds have produced vague results - one species of Chasmosaurus, named C. kaiseni, bore long brow horns, while C. belli had only short ones. While these were at first named as different species, it now seems that the long horns may have come from males and the short horns from females.
Interestingly, a Chasmosaurus specimen recovered by Sternberg was accompanied by fossilized skin.The skin seems to have had lots of large scales in evenly spaced rows among smaller scales, with five or six sides per knob. Sad to say, not a thing can be learned of the color of Chasmosaurus from the known fossil skin samples.
ClassificationCeratopsians are split into two subfamilies by taxonomists; those with short frills (centrosaurines), such as Centrosaurus and those with long frills (chasmosaurines), of which Chasmosaurus was one. As well as the larger frill, the long-frilled ceratopsians typically had longer faces and jaws and some paleontologists think that they were more selective with the plants they ate. Long frills were a relatively late development in dinosaur evolution, since even Chasmosaurus dates from the late Cretaceous Period, 76.5 to 75.5 million years ago.
Discoveries and species
In 1898, Lawrence M. Lambe of the Geological Survey of Canada found the first Chasmosaurus remains- part of a neck frill. While he knew that his find formed a new species, Lambe thought it was from a Monoclonius. He built the new species Monoclonius belli to describe it.
But, in 1913, Charles Sternberg and his sons found lots of full "M. belli" skulls in the middle Dinosaur Park Formation of Alberta, Canada.These were finally described as the new genus Chasmosaurus in 1914, once more by Lawrence Lambe.
Since then, more Chasmosaurus remains, including skulls, have been found. There seems to be morphological variation from the known sample of Chasmosaurus skulls, so there are a few known species of Chasmosaurus. Lambe's original C. belli ('Bell's cleft lizard') was joined by C. canadensis ('from Canada') in the same year. The latter species had been described as Eoceratops canadensis by Lambe but was later reclassified as a chasmosaur by Thomas M. Lehman. Eoceratops and the long-horned Chasmosaurus kaiseni are for now thought to be examples of Mojoceratops. Lull named a strange, short-muzzled skull, collected in 1926, C. brevirostris. C. M. Sternberg added C. russelli, in 1940, from Alberta (Dinosaur Park Formation). Thomas Lehman described C. mariscalensis in 1989 from Texas, which has now been renamed Agujaceratops. The most recently described species is C. irvinensis, which stems from the top beds of the Dinosaur Park Formation. This species got its own genus, Vagaceratops, in 2010.
PaleobiologyThe fact that the bones of several individuals were found grouped in some sites in Alberta suggests that they lived in herds. Some of the sites came to contain remains of tens or even hundreds of individuals. The sites of bones were formed very fast due to some catastrophic event, like the eruption of a volcano. But some research has specified that it was the overflow of a river, which suggest that a whole herd was killed trying to cross the river by swimming. In case a herd was attacked by a predator, such as Tyrannosaurus, males could have formed a ring and, with all the frills facing out, would have presented a formidable sight. Chasmosaurus deposits can make us understand that horned dinosaurs migrated through distances too, although this idea is hard to pass. Currently, herds of wildebeest have to cross many rivers, where many individuals die.
In the media
- Chasmosaurus appears in Dinosaur King as a card that can be used in the trading card game. It is depicted as a Lightning Element dinosaur (like all other ceratopsians)
- In a Calvin and Hobbes comic, Chasmosaurus was depicted as the main prey for tyrannosaurs in F-14 fighter jets.
- Chasmosaurus appeared in When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth.
- Chasmosaurus was also featured as the only aggressive herbivore in the Carnivores 2 hunting game, but was more similar to Triceratops.
- Chasmosaurus was also a mecha in the Super Sentai series Bakuryuu Sentai Abaranger and a zord in its American counterpart Power Rangers: Dino Thunder.
- A baby Chasmosaurus named "26" appeared in the TV series based on James Gurney's Dinotopia books. A similar Chasmosaurus by the same name also appears in the animated movie Dinotopia: Quest for the Ruby Sunstone.
- Chasmosaurus was seen in Prehisteria.
- Chasmosaurus had a brief cameo in Fantasia.
- A Chasmosaurus makes a brief appearance fighting two fast biters (Dromaeosaurus) in Land Before Time III: The Time of Great Giving.
- In a Ice Age: The Meltdown Chasmosaurus made it's first appearance on the Big Screen. Except in the movie they weren't seen alive. There was a skull of Chasmosaurus
- Chasmosaurus appears in Planet Dinosaur, where one is seen fighting a lone Daspletosaurus and winning, before being killed when the Daspletosaurus brings a whole pack on the hunt.
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