RALEIGH, N.C., Sept. 19 (UPI) -- Look out Jason Schwartzman and Barbara Streisand, there's a new famous nose on the block -- and it belongs to a gentle giant who's more than 75 million years old -- a newly discovered but long extinct species of dinosaur named Rhinorex condrupus.
As researchers from North Carolina State University and Brigham Young University have discovered, the largest aquiline nose of the Late Cretaceous period most certainly belonged to Rhinorex condrupus, a gentle giant of the duck-billed dino family, or hadrosaurs, that perused estuaries of ancient North America looking for plants and algae to slurp up.
Instead of a giant crest on its noggin, as many hadrosaurs possess, Rhinorex was graced with giant nose. The rest of the dinosaur's body was pretty big too, stretching 30 feet in length and weighing more than 8,500 pounds.
Paleontologists found remains of Rhinorex in a museum in the collection of the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences. It was first unearthed from Utah's Neslen formation, but the fossils had primarily been studied from the well-preserved skin impressions and had not been completely removed from the bedrock and reconstructed.
When N.C. State researcher Terry Gates and colleague Rodney Sheetz, from the Brigham Young Museum of Paleontology, decided to do so, they realized they had a new species on their hands.
"We had almost the entire skull, which was wonderful," Gates said, "but the preparation was very difficult. It took two years to dig the fossil out of the sandstone it was embedded in -- it was like digging a dinosaur skull out of a concrete driveway."
"We've found other hadrosaurs from the same time period but located about 200 miles farther south that are adapted to a different environment," Gates explained. "This discovery gives us a geographic snapshot of the Cretaceous, and helps us place contemporary species in their correct time and place. Rhinorex also helps us further fill in the hadrosaur family tree."
As to why Rhinorex had such a large nose, researchers aren't yet sure. Gates say that most other hadrosaurs didn't have a very good sense of smell.
"Maybe the nose was used as a means of attracting mates, recognizing members of its species, or even as a large attachment for a plant-smashing beak, Gates said. "We are already sniffing out answers to these questions."
The discovery is detailed in the Journal of Systematic Paleontology.