Triceratops (Pronounced TRI-sair-ah-tops) was a rhinoceros-like dinosaur. Triceratops grew to about 30 feet long, up to10 feet tall, and weighed up to 12 tons, making it the largest dinosaur in the ceratopsians family. Triceratops was also one of the last dinosaurs to become extinct. It made up most of the plant eating population just before the end of the Cretaceous. Its remains are common in coastal lowland sediments.
Triceratops had a short, pointed tail, a bulky body, and walked on short, sturdy, column-like legs with hoof-like claws. It is believed that Triceratops was a slow moving dinosaur, as estimated from fossil tracks. Triceratops (meaning three-horned face) had three horns on its face. There was a single, short nasal horn and two upper horns, as long as hockey sticks, protruding above its eyes. Its head, sometimes as much as 10 ft long, was the largest ever found on a land animal. It had large eyes and a fairly large brain.
In 1888, John Bell Hatcher found the first Triceratops skull in Denver, Colorado. Paleontologist Othniel Marsh named Triceratops in 1889. At first, it was mistakenly identified as an extinct species of buffalo. Since then, about 50 Triceratops skulls and some partial skeletons have been found, mostly in western Canada and the western United States. 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 there are two (C. Forster, 1996) or more species, including Triceratops horridus, Triceratops prorsus, Triceratops albertensis, Triceratops ingens, Triceratops alticornis, and perhaps others.
Triceratops was a herbivore. It probably ate cycads and other low-lying plants with its tough beak. Triceratops could chew well with its cheek teeth. Triceratops roamed the open plains for food and probably used its horns to push over tall trees to get to the delicate top branches.
Triceratops lived during the late Cretaceous period, about 72 to 65 million years ago, toward the end of the Mesozoic. Its fossils have been discovered in Canada and the US. It was among the last of the dinosaur species to evolve before the Cretaceous-Tertiary extinction. Other dinosaurs living then were Tyrannosaurus rex, Ankylosaurus, Corythosaurus and Dryptosaurus, to name a few.
Tyrannosaurus rex hunted and ate Triceratops. Experts know this because of fossilized T. rex waste that was found in Saskatchewan, Canada. They believe the bone fragments in the feces to be part of the head frill of Triceratops.
Triceratops was probably a herding animal, like other Ceratopsians. Experts believe this because of discovering large deposits of Triceratops bones (bone beds) in the same area. When threatened by predators, Triceratops probably charged into its enemy like the modern-day rhinoceros does. This was probably a very effective defense. It is believed that Triceratops was probably a feisty animal because many specimens have bones damaged in combats with rivals or predators.
Birth & Offspring
No one knows how Triceratops reproduced or raised their young, except to say that they probably hatched from eggs.
Lydia King is a huge animal lover and has always been fascinated with learning about the animal kingdom. She enjoys writing about anything animal related from scientific information about rare species to animal references in pop culture.