Master’s Thesis

My Master’s thesis is entitled BONE HISTOLOGY AND GROWTH OF CHASMOSAURINE, CERATOPSID DINOSAURS FROM THE LATE, CAMPANIAN KAIPAROWITS FORMATION, SOUTHERN UTAH. Part of the evolution of this study was my interest in histology. Histology is the study of the microstructure of tissues.In order to histologically analyse dinosaur bone, you have to use destructive analysis of specimens that involves cross sectioning of bones, grinding them to wafer thin formats and analyzing them under a high power microscope. I began my exploration of histology at the University of Utah and became intrigued with the great potential for new information that this new science could yield. I selected for my study chasmosaurine ceratopsid dinosaurs. Ceratopsian dinosaurs have an interesting evolutionary story starting out as small, bipedal animals and evolving to be large, quadrupedal animal.I wanted to analyse how they grew and how this growth linked to their evolution of large body size and quadrupedality.To discover how they grew, I conducted histological analysis on Kosmoceratops richardsoni and Utahceratops gettyi and then compared them to smaller, bipedal ceratopsian Psittacosaurus and small, quadrupedal ceratopsian Protoceratops and also to other large, quadrupedal ceratopsians Pachyrhyinosaurus, Centrosaurus, and Einiosaurus. I exploredthe prescense or absence of lines of arrested growth, compared the densities of vascular canals and bone cells, and learned about the metabolism of these animals. 

                        Kosmoceratops fleshed out

                        Kosmoceratops fleshed out

In the analysis of these specimens I did not find lines of arrested growth of the Utah forms, but I developed a hypothesis that all large quadrupedal ceratopsian are warm blooded and that this latitudinal pattern that we see in the amount of Lines of Arrested Growth is apparent due to the different climate in these different areas in the Late Cretaceous. I continue my exploration of this category and continue to explore the new and exciting field of histology.



Ceratopsian dinosaurs are one of the most diverse dinosaur groups in the Cretaceous, and an outstanding question is how growth strategies of this group evolved in relation to their shift from small bipedal basal ceratopsians to larger quadrupedal ceratopsids. Previous bone histology studies have investigated several basal ceratopsians and centrosaurine ceratopsids (e.g., Centrosaurus, Pachyrhinosaurus, Einiosaurus), but no chasmosaurine ceratopsids have been investigated. I conducted histological analysis of humeri, ulnae, femora, tibiae, ribs, and ossified tendons from multiple specimens of two species of chasmosaurine ceratopsid dinosaurs from the late Campanian (Upper Cretaceous) Kaiparowits Formation of southern Utah, Kosmoceratops richardsoni and Utahceratops gettyi, to examine bone microstructure indicators of growth rate and maturity. I also reexamined the long-bone histology of the ceratopsian dinosaurs Psittacosaurus mongoliensis, Protoceratops andrewsi, and Centrosaurus apertus. All elements of Utahceratops and Kosmoceratops examined are dominated by densely vascularized tissue, indicative of sustained fast growth. Radially-oriented vascular canals as well as dense osteocytes from throughout ontogeny are further indicators of rapid growth. I identified juvenile (UMNH VP 20444 & UMNH VP 20454), subadult (UMNH VP 16681) and adult (UMNH VP 16860, UMNH VP 16861, UMNH VP 12198) specimens of Utahceratops, and two subadult to adult specimens (UMNH VP 17000 & UMNH VP 21339) of Kosmoceratops.iv I conclude that basal ceratopsians grew more slowly than the large quadrupedal ceratopsids, as evidenced by a generally higher number of definitive growth lines prevalent throughout development. In contrast, the presence of dense osteocytes, and reticular and radially-oriented vascular canals are rapid growth indicators shared by all sampled large ceratopsids, and imply an elevated metabolism for all ceratopsians. Sampled specimens of Utahceratops and Kosmoceratops do not preserve any evidence of annual lines of arrested growth (LAGs). Placed in context with the number of LAGs observed in Alaskan Pachyrhinosaurus, Centrosaurus from Alberta, and Einosaurus from Montana, these data suggest a latitudinal gradient in the number of LAGs, which suggests that bone growth is reacting to the climate.