A recently completed art project (ostensibly to hone skills and objectively to explore reconstruction ideas) led me through the Ceratopsidae from its beginnings to its end. This was observed on Twitter, where I posted each full piece (at reduced size), but here I’d like to talk about the animals I depicted in a little more detail.
Christopher (James Wolfe)’s Zuni [indigenous people of New Mexico] ceratopsian [horned-face]. One of the earliest ceratopsians, Zuniceratops maintained a Protoceratops-like postcranial while developing a broad ceratopsid-like frill and long brow horns. A flash of yellow or orange in the striking contrast of the red and brown of the frill makes use of this evolutionary novelty.
Kronos [Greek harvest god, known for a scythe]’s scimitar (or other curved blade) ceratopsian [horned-face]. My original intent here was to illustrate Diabloceratops, but I used frill elements from the much less complete relative Machairoceratops. It is possible both are so closely related they might represent the same anagenetic series; however, a broader clade of short-nosed, early ceratopsids or centrosaurines known as Nasutoceratopsini may include them given their similar short, rounded squamosals, long pair of epiparietals, wide-angled and upward curving brow horns. Brilliant coloring follows the mandrill, a primate with vibrant-colored fur and skin.
Windowed kentron [spiked shield] ceratopsian [horned-face]. One of the earliest centrosaurines, and its namesake, extensive research has developed a broad complex of “Centrosaurus” like taxa such as Monoclonius belonging to this distinctive, hook-frilled centrosaurine. New research has demonstrated that the otherwise plastic expression of horn shape and orientation is, in fact, likely ontogenetic and size sorted, without clear sexual dimorphism present. So males and females might sport similar frills. Long ridges on the parietal “hooks” suggest the keratinous/cornified tissues of the horns might have been more rugose and elaborate than sheets of keratin, and so they are given a scaly, pinecone appearance.
Styrax [the spiked butt of the spear] lizard from Alberta (Canada). Perhaps even more plastic than Centrosaurus, skulls attributed to a variety of Styracosaurus-like taxa, some removed as Rubeosaurus (ovatus). A diversity of skulls have demonstrated that there is plastic expression of the number, orientation of parietal frill spikes, including the innermost and smallest loci to the largest three posterior loci, and that these can vary from left to right. The spikes are belligerant warnings, and undoubtedly useful weapons, but perhaps would have better served to show wellness, fitness to mate, with the largest animals serving as herd-safety enablers.
Thick-nosed lizard from Canada. Of the variety of pachyrostran centrosaurines, this one is the ur-exemplar, and the one least represented amongst recent depictions. Few if any spikes adorn its frill midline, nor are the large parietal horns strongly flattened and curved inward. The bulbous nose would have been adorned with thick skin and heavy, possibly pinecone-like keratin, perfect for pushing contests, and not ideal for displaying color given its rough use.
(Collector Walter) Bell’s cleft (frill) lizard. The quintessential chasmosaurine, it also presents the baseline from which frill variation is compared, leading to details of numbers of frill horns, their shape, and even the shape of the rear end, either a shallow U or a deep V, or even in some cases seemingly coalesced. Whether these variants warrant as much specific distinction as presented for merely slight changes in the parietal is best left for another day. Bright horns and a striking chevron pattern on the frill mark out an animal not afraid to be noticed, and perhaps in numbers such patterns can help confuse predators.
(Discoverer Scott) Richardson’s adorned (ornate) ceratopsian [horned-face]. One variation in frill ornamentation occur in what I call the “potato-chip” frilled ceratopsids, where the epiossifications curl over the frill, occurring in both major subgroups. Like Centrosaurus, these form “hooks” and are similarly ridges, suggesting degrees of additional dermal ornamentation might be present. I might imagine cleaning these horns near impossible, so bits of things might get stuck amongst the tines. Rather than bold colors, a subtle contrast with the pink face and brown frill and higher contrast with a bright nose combine to show nature not always wont exaggerate — if it weren’t for the actual nonsense these colors find themselves upon such a large animal.
Decorated short [implied brief, centrosaur-like] horned face. Long touted a “boring” ceratopsid, Anchiceratops is amongst my favorites despite being relatively poorly known, given the “normal”ness of its frill, but with hidden eccentricities, including the two loci 1 epiossifications and the large, regular rear spikes. Elaborate blues and mauves on the frill show possible pigments ingested from foodstuffs and might fade in lean months, but become exaggerated when it comes time to mate.
Triceratops / Torosaurus spp.
Three horned face / Perforated (pierced) lizard. Upon a darkened form, a bright pink face emerges from the shadows, a fearless titan. Though I have spoken about the concerns of whether Torosaurus belongs within Triceratops, here I added the face of the one and the frill of the other, to show off the sheets of keratin that would cover the entire frill, horns, and face, resulting in a blood-filled display flushed with microorganism-derived pigments.