Dino Index

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Latin Name Triceratops
Everyday Name Triceratops
Length 9 meters
Height 23 metric
Weight 23 metric
Diet herbivore
Period Cretaceous
Pronunciation Try - sair - ah - tops


I remember seeing Triceratops when I was a boy. Now, my son has been just as captivated by this big rhinocerous of the Cretaceous. Triceratops was one of the last remaining dinosaurs and went extinct at the close of the Cretaceous period, along with all the other remaining dinosaurs.

Othneil Marsh first foundTriceratops horns and thought they were bison horns. Only two years later he found a more complete skull and realized it was a dinosaur. He went on to classify eight more species ofTriceratops and many more have been classified, although now we think they are not all distinct species, but just variations among individuals.

Triceratops has three large horns, two over its eyes, and one on the nose. Aside from this big feature, there is the large bony frill which goes over the neck. The exact purpose of the frill - which was about 2m long - is not known. Some think it is to protectTriceratops from predators like Tyrannosaurus rex (or maybe not), and others say it is to help them recognize each other.

Still another idea is that the frill was important in the mating activity, or perhaps to help decide which is the dominant male in courtship.

Another idea is that the frill was used in body temperature regulation (like in stegosaurus). Shunting blood to the frill area could help cool the animal by increasing the surface area to exchange heat with the environment.

What did they eat?

They ate plants, most notably cycads and other low lying plants. It could chew them with dozens of closely packed cheek-teeth that could cut and grind with a scissor like action. In fact some estimates range as high as 400 to 430 teeth at one time. And the teeth were continuously regenerated through the life of the animal (this reminds me of sharks..). Some people also suggest it ate ferns which grew on the prairies at that time.

What were they eaten by?

Recently a coprolite from Tyrannosaurus rex was found with bones in it. One of the bone fragments seems to be apart of the Triceratops frill, which would show that the frill had only limited ability to protect Triceratops from large predators.

Theyhave been found in western North America in Alberta, and Saskatchewn Canada, and in Montana, N. Dakota, S. Dakota, Colorado, Wyoming in the United States. Many fossils of the skulls have been found in coastal lowland sediments. The frill is very common but bones of the rest of the skeleton are quite rare.

Masses of Bones

There are instances in Africa today where dozens of animals get caught in a river crossing by a sudden flood. Many die at once. The same has been found as the best explanation of some dinosaurs. Many of their bones are found together at one time near sediments like a river makes.

This is why we think some dinosaurs are a herd animals. Many bones may be found nearby each other. Possibly they all died from the same cause, just like herd animals in Africa today.

But this is not the case for Triceratops. There is only one bonebed of Triceratops found yet. It has only three juveniles together.

We do not really have much evidence to show that they were herding animals and any comments about this are inconclusive. On the other hand there are bonebeds of the other horned dinosaurs found so one might reasonably assume that if Triceratops were closely related to thos dinosaurs, perhaps they too are herding animals.

image of triceratops