Learn more about triceratope, the famous three-horned dinosaur
Triceratope is perhaps one of the most famous dinosaurs of all the "terrible lizards." Its distinctive appearance - with three horns and a large bony plate on the back of its head - makes it an unmistakable animal, always present in movies, books, comics and other media portraying these animals. Learn now several curious facts about triceratopes:
The meaning of the name "triceratope" is quite simple: face with three horns. It comes straight from the Greek, where tri means three, kéras is horn and ops, face. The two known species of this animal are Triceratops horridus and Triceratops prorsus, but some studies consider that the former would have evolved into the latter.
The triceratope lived where today is the North American continent and was limited only to this region, as the continents had already separated, undoing the block called Pangeia. The vast majority of the fossil remains of this dinosaur were found in the so-called Hell Creek Formation, which spans the states of Montada, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wyoming. More than 50 skulls of this animal have been found there.
The first triceratope fossil was discovered in 1887, and at first glance it was thought to be the bone of a bison. No complete fossils have been discovered to date, only diverse parts of a diversity of individuals, including cubs.
He was one of the last dinosaurs to ever set foot on Earth, as he lived at the end of the Cretaceous period, which ended in the famous Cretaceous-Paleogene extinction, in which a meteor is thought to have hit the Yucatan Peninsula and ended up with over 75% of species of living beings in the world. With this data, you can tell that he lived with dinosaurs such as tyrannosaurus (one of its largest predators), pteranodon and parasaurolophus. Animals such as stegosaurus, brachiosaurus and velociraptor did not even live around the same time as our three-horned friend.
Some more recent studies are considering that other dinosaurs in the triceratope family, specifically torosaurus and nedoceratope, are all actually the same animal, but at different stages of life. I explain: these two other animals differ from the triceratope in that they have a larger, fissured bone collar.
One has even larger cracks, which made some researchers understand that they could be the same animal: the triceratope being a young individual; the nedoceratope, an adult animal; and the torosaurus would be an older one. The only thing that could clarify this doubt would be the discovery of more fossils of these two dinosaurs, since only a single copy of nedoceratope has been found to date.
The triceratope was about the size of an African elephant, reaching 9 meters in length and weighing between 5 and 8 tons. Its head was huge, representing almost a third of the total size of the animal, and could reach 2.5 meters in length. Its largest horns, the ones that appeared above the eyes, were up to 1 meter long.
The horns and bone collar, the plate behind their heads, served as a defense against predators, since these animals were herbivores, and probably for fights between individuals of the same species and to show pomp and strength for females. Its biggest predator, the tyrannosaurus, was having a hard time trying to tackle these huge, sharp horns.
Triceratopes were herbivores, feeding mainly on ferns, palm trees and cicadaceans, which are widely used in landscaping today. The front part of his mouth was beak-shaped, which probably had the function of grasping and plucking more firm parts of vegetables. They could also use the horns to reach higher vegetation and pull them as far as they could eat them. It is also noteworthy that a triceratope had no less than about 800 teeth in the mouth!
Triceratopes were believed to be solitary animals. But scientists discovered in 2009 a set of bones with young and adult individuals, which may be an indication that they walked in flocks like a herd.
Now you know a lot more about this dinosaur unlike any other. Do you know any other curiosities about him? Put it in the comments!