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PALEONEWS:Unique Skull Completes Dinosaur Family at Smithsonian
(Mickey-could you forward this to the Dino list please? I'm still
This is a CNN custome news article.
CNN has recently changed formats so I can not give you the URL.
I recommend registering at cnn.com for your own custom news to
access the article online- -Betty
Unique Skull Completes Dinosaur Family at Smithsonian
WASHINGTON (AP) -- One of the newest and most popular attractions at the
Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of Natural History actually is
an old friend: a 70 million-year-old dinosaur skull found by a collector
in 1891 in Wyoming, and on loan to a university museum in Utah for two
The six-foot relic is of a prehistoric creator known as Diceratops,
affectionately dubbed "Lady Di" -- with two horns on the head that stand
straight up and indicate she's probably female.
Dinosaur collector J.B. Hatcher dug up the skull in 1891 in northeast
Wyoming near Lightning Creek, a once-lush region _ inviting for a
vegetarian like Diceratops, with its parrot beak and 20-inch battery of
For Richard H. Benson, chairman of the museum's paleobiology department,
having at the Smithsonian what many scientists consider the one and only
Diceratops represents a major coup.
He first saw the skull in the 1930s, when he was a child in West
Virginia and on a field trip to the Smithsonian.
Benson didn't see it again until last October while visiting Brigham
Young University's Earth Science Museum in Provo, Utah.
The university had Diceratops on loan for the past 20 years and could
not very well refuse Benson's request that it be returned to Washington.
The relic has been back since June, and Benson said it completes a
family of dinosaurs that include Monoclonius, Triceratops and the
smaller Protoceratops, thought to be the family's ancestor.
Benson was concerned the loss of Diceratops might leave a hole in the
Utah museum's collection. The solution would be to send Brigham Young a
copy of Diceratops, but the Smithsonian did not have a mold available.
It did have one of Diceratops' cousin, the one-horned Monoclonius.
Benson had a replica made of that dinosaur and said it is ready for
shipment to the university. "It's an expression of our good will," he
Ken Stadtman, a curator at Brigham Young, said he looks forward to the
Monoclonius but already misses the one-of-a-kind Diceratops.
Unique bones illustrate the variety of ancient life, he said, "and are
always the most interesting."
Not all of Benson's colleagues hold as much value in Diceratops'
importance. They say there is no such thing as Diceratops and that it's
really a three-horned Triceratops with one horn broken off.
The dispute could be resolved when Diceratops goes digital, possibly
this month. Scientists intend to use a laser beam to map the contours of
the skull's surface and transform this information into a computer
The resulting picture will be a composite of bones assembled into a
complete Diceratops, showing what it looked like and how it moved,
Benson said. That way, Diceratops can be compared with other dinosaurs.
"We're interested in them as extremely large animals and how problems of
scale are overcome; why they lasted so long," he said.
Interest in dinosaurs was not always so scientific. Early discoveries of
large bones and fossils led to creations of dragons and other
mythological creatures. Many of those fables and concepts live today,
such as the winged dragon and deep-sea monster.
Eventually, bones were pieced together, giving scientists a look at the
skeletons of true prehistoric creatures and material to study their
behaviors and movements.
"It makes us all proud ... that we have that ability to reconstruct a
history of 160 million years ago," Benson said. "This in itself is a
Flying Goat Graphics
(Society of Vertebrate Paleontology member)