72 million-year-old dinosaur used built-in trumpet to woo females

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London, Feb 13 (UNI) A duck-billed dinosaur that possessed a built-in horn to woo females has been found in Mexico.

Researchers said Velafrons coahuilensis possessed a built-in horn which it used to woo females. The 25ft creature, a youngster that would have grown up to be around 35 ft, had a fan-shaped bony crest on its skull filled with nasal passages, they added.

The 72 million-year-old dinosaur, named Velafrons coahuilensis, probably performed to attract mates. Scientists believe the appendage may have been used as a kind of trumpet, with air blown through it to make showy or seductive sounds.

A University of Utah spokesperson said, ''Scientists are uncertain what Velafrons' fan-shaped crest would have been used for, but a leading hypothesis suggests mate attraction, which explains the complex nasal passages as a possible musical instrument.'' The creature was discovered in a geological site known as the Cerro del Pueblo formation in Coahuila, on the coast of north-central Mexico.

Velafrons, a combination of Latin and Spanish meaning ''sailed forehead'' in reference to its crest, was a duck-billed dinosaur, or hadrosaur.

Like all its relatives, it was a plant eater. Hadrosaurs were common in the late Cretaceous period, but Velafrons is the first dinosaur of its type to be discovered in this part of north America.

Dr Terry Gates, from the Utah Museum of Natural History in Salt Lake City, one of the scientists who described the find in the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology, told the Daily Telegraph, ''The crested duck-billed dinosaurs are an extraordinary example of vertebrate evolution.'' Breathing was a complex business for Velafrons and its kin, since they had noses on top of their heads. Air flowed through a series of passages into the crest and finally entered a hole above the eyes.

Mexican dinosaur fossils are rare, but Velafrons belonged to an unusually rich cache of finds from the same site. Dr Terry Gates holds the bill on a skull replica of the duck-billed dinosaur.

Remains of a second type of hadrosaur were also discovered, as well as a plant-eating horned dinosaur similar to the famous Triceratops.

More than 70 million years ago, the now arid region was a humid estuary near the southernmost tip of West America.

Beds of jumbled dinosaur bones indicate that mass death events occurred there, possibly due to the massive storms.

Scott Sampson, a Utah Museum of Natural History palaeontologist and co-author of the study, said the region ''was periodically hammered by monstrous storms, devastating miles of fertile coastline, apparently killing off entire herds of dinosaurs.'' For most of the Late Cretaceous, high global sea levels resulted in flooding of the central, low-lying portion of North America.

As a result, a warm, shallow sea extended from the Arctic Ocean to the Gulf of Mexico, splitting the continent in two.

Dinosaurs living on the long, narrow, peninsula-like western landmass known as Laramidia, or 'West America,' occupied only a narrow belt of plains that were sandwiched between the seaway to the east and rising mountains to the west.

Central America had not formed at the time, which made Mexico the southern tip of the continent.

UNI XC RJ HT1800

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