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A dinosaur from Montana with huge blade-like horns is named after Norse god Loki

Anyone wandering 78 million years ago through the swamplands of modern day Montana may have come across a dinosaur so unusual that scientists have likened it to the god of mischief himself.

At more than 20 feet long and weighing 5 tons, this hulking herbivore had a pair of 2 footlong blade-shaped horns on its majestic, frill-shaped head. It also had two more 16-inch horns above its eyes, and perhaps more than a dozen others dotted around its face like some sort of spiky crown.

Lokiceratops rangiformis — named after the Norse god Loki, popularized recently in the Marvel Cinematic Universe — is an entirely new dinosaur previously undiscovered by paleontologists, scientists said in a journal Thursday.

Not everyone agrees. Some peers have questioned whether it’s just a variation on another type of ceratopsidae, the family of dinosaurs that includes the iconic triceratops.

Those behind the study, published in the journal PeerJ, beg to differ.

“While some paleontologists may argue that Lokiceratops is a variant of another dinosaur it lived alongside … the number of frill horns is dramatically different,” Joseph Sertich, an affiliate professor at Colorado State University and co-author of the study, wrote on Instagram. It’s “not just the size and shape.”

A handout image shows an artist's impression of newly-identified Cretaceous Period horned dinosaur Lokiceratops, whose fossils were unearthed in the badlands of Montana (Sergey Krasovskiy / via Reuters)

A handout image shows an artist's impression of newly-identified Cretaceous Period horned dinosaur Lokiceratops, whose fossils were unearthed in the badlands of Montana (Sergey Krasovskiy / via Reuters)

The lokiceratops had at least 12 smaller horns coming from its head, and perhaps even 14, whereas another similar looking dinosaur, the medusaceratops, only had 10, he said. Furthermore, he added, there is no evidence it had a nose horn typical of many of its brethren.

This late-Cretaceous beast was found in the badlands of Montana, a part of the western United States with one of the highest concentrations of dinosaur fossils on Earth.

Commercial fossil hunter Mark Eatman found the bones in spring 2019 on a Montana ranch in the Kennedy Coulee region, just a few miles from the Canadian border.

Denmark’s Museum of Evolution bought the skeleton in 2021, transporting it to the Utah-based fossil preparation and mounting company Fossilogic. There, experts used polyester resin to sculpt missing pieces from the skull and body, while surrounding the whole thing with silicone-rubber molds so replicas could be cast.

It was mounted in 2022 and taken to the museum in Denmark where it is on display. NBC News has contacted the museum for comment.

"This is the only known specimen in the world," the museum's website says. "This incredible horned dinosaur stands out for its massive, blade-like frill horns … Lokiceratops was a giant! "

Many experts appear convinced.

"It appears to be genuinely a new genus and a new species," Michael Benton, a professor of vertebrate paleontology at the University of Bristol, in England, told NBC News. "I find the new paper very thorough and clear and they make a convincing case for complex ecological relations at the time," he said in an email.

This dinosaur and its "close relatives all lived side-by-side," Benton added, saying that researchers often saw the same phenomenon in other species: "small-scale evolutionary explosions of five or six closely related species all living and feeding close together."

Others are more skeptical, however.

“It’s an interesting-looking animal,” Jordan Mallon, a paleontologist at the Canadian Museum of Nature, told Science Magazine. “I think it’s going to be a little contentious as to whether it represents a new species or not.”

This article was originally published on NBCNews.com

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