The nickname “Hellboy” refers to the the difficulty in excavating the enormous skull due to the hardness of rock it was encased in, as well as its distinctive features – two short and thick horns over the eyes and a long horn on the nose.
The dinosaur was named Regaliceratops peterhewsi after geologist Peter Hews, who discovered the bones the of the new species, in southeastern Alberta back in 2005, NPR reports. However, it wasn’t until the specimen was being prepared that its unusual horns were noticed, said Caleb Brown of the Royal Tyrrell Museum of Palaeontology in Alberta, where the bones are now on display.
The fossil, which lived in the Cretaceous some 70 million years ago, is two or three million years older than Triceratops, everybody’s childhood favorite. It’s also closely related to Triceratops and is part of a group called the Chamsmosaurinae and within a smaller group called the Triceratopsini.
Museum staff nick-named “Hellboy” for the horned comic-book (and film) character because “it was restricted by very hard rock, steep cliffs and also, it was right on the edge of a protected trout spawning habitat, so the excavation was very difficult; it was a hellish quarry,” Brown explained.
“Once it was prepared it was obviously a new species, and an unexpected one at that. Many horned-dinosaur researchers who visited the museum did a double take when they first saw it in the laboratory,” he added.
According to Drumheller Online, “Hellboy” would have been about the size of a modern rhino, five metres long (15 feet) and weighing about 1.5 tonnes. In addition to the short horns over its eyes and the long nose horn, it had an elaborate neck frill that resembles a crown, hence the ‘regal’ name.
“I don’t think any paleontologist would have predicted that this specimen would have existed with these types of features,” Brown told 99.5 Drum FM. “It looked like a Cetrosaurian, but it was a Chasmosaurian, so it just shows us how much we still have to learn about these animals.”
This also means that the two groups evolved the same features independently.
“The textbooks used to show Triceratops using its horns to fend off Tyrannosaurus Rex, but the thinking has changed about that,” Brown told NPR, adding that most scientist now think that they were mainly a mating display.
“Most of the horns would actually be pretty useless for defense,” he added.
An amazing creature, nevertheless.