Head to head

Nicholas R. Longrich

Nicholas R. Longrich

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The Texas tradition of one-on-one showdowns goes back a lot further than the Wild West. The dueling opponents above are dinosaurs of the Cretaceous, members of a species recently discovered in the southwest of the state. When seeking to establish dominance or win the prettiest girl 75 million years ago, a Yale scientist theorizes, a male would head-butt his rival with a skull built for the purpose.

Yale paleontologist (and artist) Nicholas R. Longrich helped discover the new species, Texacephale langstoni. It belongs to the group called pachycephalosaurs (“thick-headed lizards”), most of which, he says, “have thickened, dome-like heads.” In the journal Cretaceous Research, he suggests that the dinosaur was a predecessor of similar species already known in Asia.

“Like modern Cape buffalo or musk ox, they cracked skulls together in shoving matches to determine who was stronger,” explains Longrich. “They didn’t have to fight to the death.”

They weren’t that hard-headed. 

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