Paleontologists last Wednesday unveiled a double whammy of horned dinosaurs from Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument (GSENM) that until today had been completely unknown to science.

One new species, Kosmoceratops richardsoni – named for Scott Richardson – who was a GSENM volunteer when he discovered it – had a head studded with 15 horns, making it the most ornately headed dinosaur ever found.

The other, Utahceratops gettyi, had a seven-foot-long skull. This massive beast was also named for its discoverer, Utah Museum of Natural History’s Mike Getty.

Both Getty and Richardson have dug on GSENM for much of the past decade. When Richardson made his discovery in 2006 he was volunteering with the BLM; Getty’s crew was working in the same area.  

When Richardson initially dug up and brushed off bits of the spectacular find, he went to find Getty, who took a colleague to dig further while Richardson went to town for provisions.

“So when I got back, I asked them, ‘How’d it go, what did you find,’ and Getty says, ‘Just a bunch of ribs and verts (vertebrae), not much,’” said Richardson, who’s now a paleo technician at GSENM. “And he was kind of grinning, and then Mike said, “No man, it was awesome…this looks like nothing I’ve ever seen before,’ and he’d of course dug on many ceratopsians here and in Canada, so I knew I had something cool.”

These finds, which date to about 76 million years ago, are just part of the explosion in horned dinosaur diversity that the paleo world has seen in the past decade, going from 15 known species in 2004 to 30 today. They’re also part of the entirely new assemblage of dinosaurs that have been found on GSENM.

“(This find) underscores the point that we’re still scratching the surface,” said Scott Sampson, a paleontologist and lead author on the paper that was published today in PLoS ONE, the online open-access journal produced by the Public Library of Science.

“Grand Staircase is this phenomenal, two-million-acre scientific laboratory that is relatively unexplored, and it’s there now for science and for education,” Sampson said at the press conference Wednesday. “And these finds underscore the importance of the Monument, and the importance of preserving the Monument, and taking care of the fossils coming off it.”

The director of the Monument’s non-profit partner group agreed. “It’s remarkable to have two new dinosaurs from the Monument named in one day,” said Roger Cole, executive director of Grand Staircase Escalante Partners, which supports science, education and conservation on GSENM. “And these amazing new discoveries really highlight the Monument’s role as an outdoor laboratory, not just for paleontologists, but for all scientists.”