Diabloceratops: The Devil-Horned Face of the Late Cretaceous

Welcome, fellow dinosaur enthusiasts! Today, we’re going to journey back in time, some 83.5 to 70.6 million years ago, to the Late Cretaceous period. Our destination is the ancient landscapes of what is now Utah, USA, and our focus is a fascinating creature that roamed these lands: the Diabloceratops.

This dinosaur, with its devilish horns and imposing presence, is a captivating subject and we’re going to delve into its world, exploring its origins, characteristics, and the environment it called home.

Diabloceratops Key Facts

Diabloceratops pronunciationdee-ab-low-sera-tops
Meaning of nameDevil-horned face
Type SpeciesDiabloceratops eatoni
When it Lived83.5 to 70.6 MYA
PeriodLate Cretaceous
EpochEarly/Lower Campanian
Length14.8 ft
Height4.9 ft
Weight1.4 tons
MobilityMoved on four legs
First Discovery2002 by Don DeBlieux
Location of First FindUtah, USA
Described byAmerican pale. James Ian Kirkland and Donald DeBlieux in 2010
HolotypeUMNH VP 16699

Diabloceratops Origins, Taxonomy and Timeline

Let’s start at the beginning, with the name. Diabloceratops is a name that conjures up images of a fearsome creature–and rightly so. The name translates to “Devil-horned face,” derived from Diablo, the Spanish word for “devil,” and ceratops, Latinized Greek for “horned face.” This is a fitting name for a dinosaur that sported an impressive array of horns on its head.

Diabloceratops: Devil-Horned Face of the Late Cretaceous
image by Nobu Tamura is license under CC BY-SA 3.0

In terms of taxonomy, it belongs to the group Ceratopsia–specifically the Ceratopsid family of herbivorous dinosaurs known for their distinctive frills and horns.The type species is Diabloceratops eatoni, and as of now, no subspecies or sister taxa have been identified.

This dinosaur found its home in the Late Cretaceous period, specifically the Early/Lower Campanian epoch. This places it around 83.5 to 70.6 million years ago, a time when the Earth was a very different place, with continents in unfamiliar positions and climates unlike anything we see today.

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Discovery & Fossil Evidence

The first discovery of Diabloceratops was made in fossil-rich Utah, USA. The initial find was then described by American paleontologists James Ian Kirkland and Donald DeBlieux in 2010. The holotype, or the specimen used to describe the species, was a partial skull with a piece of the lower jaw. The right side of the skull was intact, while part of the left side had been weathered due to exposure to the elements over millions of years.

image by Perry Quan  is license under CC BY-SA 2.0

Later finds have also been made in the same region, specifically in the Cretaceous period layers of Utah. These finds have helped to build a more complete picture, although there is still much we don’t know about this intriguing dinosaur.

Diabloceratops Size and Description

Before we delve into the details, let’s take a moment to visualize our dinosaur. Picture a dinosaur moving on all fours with a large frill extending from the back of its skull adorned with two large, curved horns. This is the Diabloceratops, a creature that truly lived up to the name of “Devil-horned face.”

Short description of Diabloceratops

The Diabloceratops was an herbivorous dinosaur that belonged to the Ceratopsid family, known for their distinctive horns and frills. Its most striking feature was undoubtedly its skull. It had two large horns that rose from the top of its neck frill and curved slightly to the sides, giving it a devilish appearance. The skull also contained an accessory opening, a feature common among basal ceratopsians, but one that disappeared in later ceratopsians. This suggests that this opening was a primitive feature of all ceratopsians, not just a specific group.

The body was robust, built for a life of grazing on low-lying vegetation. Its limbs were sturdy in order to support its weight as it moved on all fours. The tail was likely short and thick to balance out the heavy front part of its body. As for its skin–while no direct evidence has been found–it’s likely that it had a covering of scales like other dinosaurs.

Size and Weight of Type Species

Determining the exact size and weight of the Diabloceratops is a bit tricky due to the lack of complete fossil remains. However, by comparing the skull material to similar sized ceratopsian dinosaurs it has been estimated that the body length was around 4.5 meters (about 14.8 feet) long. As for the weight, it’s harder to estimate without more complete fossil evidence, but based on its size and the known weights of similar dinosaurs, it’s likely that it weighed several tons.

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The Dinosaur in Detail

Now that we have a general idea of what Diabloceratops looked like, let’s delve a bit deeper into the unique features that set this dinosaur apart from others. The most distinctive feature is the pair of large, curved horns on its frill. These horns, along with the smaller horns on its nose and above its eyes, would have made it a formidable sight, likely used for display or possibly for defense against predators.

Another interesting feature of Diabloceratops is the accessory opening in its skull. This opening, which is found in basal ceratopsians but not in later ones, suggests that it represents an intermediate stage in ceratopsian evolution. This makes it an important species for understanding the evolutionary history of this group of dinosaurs.

Finally, it’s worth noting that while we have a good understanding of the general appearance of this dinosaur, there is still much we don’t know. For example, we don’t have any direct evidence of its skin texture or coloration, and we can only speculate about its behavior based on comparisons with other ceratopsians. As more fossils are discovered and studied, we can look forward to gaining a more complete picture of this fascinating dinosaur.

The Diabloceratops in its Natural Habitat and Environment

The Diabloceratops lived during the Late Cretaceous period, a time when the Earth was a very different place than it is today. The continents were in unfamiliar positions, and the climate was unlike anything we see today. The paleocontinent where Diabloceratops fossils have been found, what is now Utah, USA, is known as Laramidia. This environment was likely a floodplain–a flat or low-lying area adjacent to a river subject to periodic flooding that would have been rich in vegetation.

As an herbivore, it would have fed on a variety of plants. Its beak-like mouth was well-suited for biting off leaves and stems and it likely had a row of teeth for grinding up plant material. While we don’t know for certain, it’s possible that it had a preference for certain types of plants, perhaps favoring those that were abundant in its environment.

In terms of behavior, much of what we can say about this mysterious dinosaur is speculative. As a ceratopsian, it may have been a social animal that lived in herds for protection against predators. Its impressive horns and frill could have been used for display, either to intimidate predators or to compete with other members of its genus for mates or resources. However, until more fossils are found and studied, these ideas remain hypotheses.

Interesting Points about Diabloceratops

  • The name, meaning “Devil-horned face,” is a reference to the two large, curved horns on its frill, which give it a devilish appearance. These horns were likely used for display or possibly for defense against predators.
  • It is part of the Ceratopsid family, a group of dinosaurs known for their distinctive horns and frills. This places it in the same family as the famous Triceratops.
  • This discovery has helped to fill in gaps in our understanding of ceratopsian evolution. Its skull features an accessory opening, a feature found in basal ceratopsians but not in later ones. It suggests that it represents an intermediate stage in ceratopsian evolution.
  • Despite its devilish name and appearance, it was an herbivore. It likely fed on low-lying vegetation, using its beak-like mouth to bite off leaves and stems.
  • These fossils have been found in Utah, USA, specifically in layers dating to the Cretaceous period. This suggests that it lived in a region that was likely a floodplain, with plenty of vegetation to support its herbivorous diet.

Contemporary Dinosaurs

Diabloceratops shared its world with a captivating array of contemporary Laramidian dinosaurs. Among them were the Kosmoceratops, Pachycephalosaurus, Pentaceratops, and Nasutoceratops. Each of these dinosaurs played their own role as herbivores in a competitive environment.

Among its contemporaries were fellow ceratopsians that shared a similar lifestyle with the Diabloceratops. They were all herbivores, co-existing and competing for the same resources. The Kosmoceratops, smaller yet no less remarkable, might have been a frequent sight for our dinosaur. With its elaborate frill and array of horns, it was a spectacle in itself. The Pentaceratops boasted its own large frill and powerful horns, while the Nasutoceratops had large, forward-pointing horns above its eyes. And yet, each had its own unique adaptations that set it apart. They may have grazed side by side, a silent agreement of peace between them as they navigated the shared landscape.

Then there was the Pachycephalosaurus, a dinosaur that stood out for its thick, domed skull. It was considerably smaller, yet it commanded its own respect. The Pachycephalosaurus engaged in head-butting contests, a stark contrast to the peaceful grazing of the Diabloceratops.

Featured Image Credit: Conty, CC BY-SA 4.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0, via Wikimedia Commons


(PDF) New basal centrosaurine ceratopsian skulls from the Wahweap Formation (Middle Campanian), Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Southern Utah | Don DeBlieux – Academia.edu

A Subadult Specimen of Rubeosaurus ovatus (Dinosauria: Ceratopsidae), with Observations on Other Ceratopsids from the Two Medicine Formation | PLOS ONE

A New Centrosaurine from the Late Cretaceous of Alberta, Canada, and the Evolution of Parietal Ornamentation in Horned Dinosaurs.

Anatomy and Taxonomic Status of the Chasmosaurine Ceratopsid Nedoceratops hatcheri from the Upper Cretaceous Lance Formation of Wyoming, U.S.A | PLOS ONE

A New Maastrichtian Species of the Centrosaurine Ceratopsid Pachyrhinosaurus from the North Slope of Alaska

The information in this article is based on various sources, drawing on scientific research, fossil evidence, and expert analysis. We aim to provide a comprehensive and accurate overview of the dinosaurs. However, please be aware that our understanding of dinosaurs and their world is constantly evolving as new discoveries are made.

Article last fact checked:Joey Arboleda, 06-11-2023