Triceratops Cretaceous Dinosaur


Phylum Chordata, Class Sauropsida, Superorder Dinosauria, Order Ornithischia, Suborder Cerapoda, Infraorder Ceratopsia, Family Ceratopsidae, Subfamily Ceratopsinae

Geological Time: Late Cretaceous, Maastrichtian stage (68 to 65 mya)

Size: up to about 26 feet long, and more than 6 tons

Stratigraphy: North America

Triceratops horridusTriceratops was a herbivorous genus of ceratopsid dinosaur that lived during the late Maastrichtian stage of the Late Cretaceous Period, around 68 to 65 million years ago (mya) in what is now North America. This makes it one of the last dinosaur genera to appear before the Cretaceous–Tertiary extinction event. It is most famously recognized by a large bony frill and three horns. In fact, its name means "three-horned face,". Alhough it shared its terrestrial environment with the Triceratops size comapred to manTyrannosaurus, science has no evidence that it fought Tyrannosaurus in the manner often depicted in movies and children's dinosaur books. Triceratops is perhaps the best known of the ceratopsid dinosaurs. Its placement within the group has long been in contention amongst paleontologists. Two species, Triceratops horridus and Triceratops prorsus, are considered valid, although many other species have been named.

Triceratops are estimated to have reached some 26 feet long, 10 feet tall, and 6.1 tonnes (13,400 lb) in weight. A complete skeleton of Triceratops has not yet been found, but it has been well described and studied from many partial specimens discovered beginning in the late 19th century. The function of the frills and three distinctive facial horns has been long debated. Although traditionally viewed as defensive weapons against predators, the latest theories claim that it is more probable that these features were used in courtship and dominance displays, much like the antlers and horns of deer and goats.

click fossil pictures to enlarge

Triceratops horridus
Triceratops skull
Triceratops model

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