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ZoomDinosaurs.com
ALL ABOUT DINOSAURS!
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Triceratops horridus
"Horrible Three-horned Face"


ANATOMY
Triceratops was a rhinoceros-like dinosaur. It walked on four sturdy legs and had three horns on its face along with a large bony plate projecting from the back of its skull (a frill). One short horn above its parrot-like beak and two longer horns (over 3 feet or 1 m long) above its eyes probably provided protection from predators. The horns were possibly used in mating rivalry and rituals. It had a large skull, up to 10 feet (3 m) long, one of the largest skulls of any land animal ever discovered. Its head was nearly one-third as long as its body. Triceratops hatched from eggs.

Triceratops was about 30 feet long (9 m), 10 feet tall (3 m), and weighed up to 6-12 tons. It had a short, pointed tail, a bulky body, column-like legs with hoof-like claws, and a bony neck frill rimmed with bony bumps. It had a parrot-like beak, many cheek teeth, and powerful jaws.



WHEN TRICERATOPS LIVED
Triceratops lived in the late Cretaceous period, about 72 to 65 million years ago, toward the end of the Mesozoic, the Age of Reptiles. It was among the last of the dinosaur species to evolve before the Cretaceous-Tertiary extinction 65 million years ago. Among the contemporaries of Triceratops were Tyrannosaurus rex (which probably preyed upon Triceratops), Ankylosaurus (an armored herbivore), Corythosaurus (a crested dinosaur), and Dryptosaurus (a meat-eating dinosaur).

BEHAVIOR
Triceratops was probably a herding animal, like the other Ceratopsians. This hypothesis is supported by the finding of bone beds, large deposits of bones of the same species in an area.

When threatened by predators, Triceratops probably charged into its enemy like the modern-day rhinoceros does. This was probably a very effective defense.

REPRODUCTION
No one knows how Triceratops reproduced or raised their young, except that they probably hatched from eggs.

INTELLIGENCE
Triceratops was a ceratopsian, whose intelligence (as measured by its relative brain to body weight, or EQ) was intermediate among the dinosaurs.

EQ


DIET, TEETH, AND ITS POSITION IN THE FOOD CHAIN

T. rex food chain

Troodon toothTriceratops was an herbivore, a plant eater (a primary consumer). It probably ate cycads and other low-lying plants with its tough beak. Triceratops could chew well with its cheek teeth (like other Ceratopsians, but unlike most other dinosaurs).

Triceratops was hunted and eaten by T. rex. Coprolite (fossilized feces) from a T. rex was recently found in Saskatchewan, Canada by a team led by Karen Chin. This 65 million year old specimen contains chunks of bones from an herbivorous (plant-eating) dinosaur which was eaten by the T. rex. This bone fragment is perhaps part of the head frill of aTriceratops.

LOCOMOTION
Triceratops walked on four short legs; it was a relatively slow dinosaur. Dinosaur speeds are estimated using their morphology (characteristics like leg length and estimated body mass) and fossilized trackways.

LOCATIONS AND DISCOVERY OF FOSSILS
Many Triceratops fossils have been found, mostly in western Canada and the western United States. Paleontologist Othniel Marsh named Triceratops in 1889 - from a fossil found near Denver, Colorado, USA. At first this fossil was mistakenly identified as an extinct species of buffalo. The first Triceratops skull was found in 1888 by John Bell Hatcher. About about 50 Triceratops skulls and some partial skeletons have been found.

CLASSIFICATION
Triceratops was a late Ornithischian dinosaur, the order of bird-hipped, herbivorous dinosaurs. It was a member of the suborder Marginocephalia, and the family of large, horned, herding herbivores, the Ceratopsians. The ceratopsians were one of the last major group of dinosaurs to evolve, and include Psittacosaurus, Leptoceratops, Pachyrhinosaurus, Montanoceratops, Chasmosaurus, Centrosaurus, Triceratops, Styracosaurus, Protoceratops, and others.


There is some disagreement about how many species of Triceratops have been found. Some paleontologists (notably Ostrom and Welnhoffer, 1990) believe there is one species, Triceratops horridus. Others believe that there are two (C. Forster, 1996) or more species, including: Triceratops horridus, Triceratops prorsus, Triceratops albertensis, Triceratops ingens, Triceratops alticornis, and perhaps others.

TRICERATOPS ACTIVITIES AND PRINTOUTS

TRICERATOPS LINKS
Triceratops Questions and Answers
Triceratops from the Smithsonian Museum, Washington, D.C., USA.


Information Sheets About Dinosaurs
(and Other Prehistoric Creatures)

Just click on an animal's name to go to that information sheet. If the dinosaur you're interested in isn't here, check the Dinosaur Dictionary or the list of Dinosaur Genera. Names with an asterisk (*) were not dinosaurs.
How to write a great dinosaur report.

For dinosaur printouts, click here.

For brief dinosaur fact sheets, click here.




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