All About the Triceratops: The Three-Horned Dinosaur


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The triceratops is one of the most famous dinosaurs after the T-rex. Triceratops means 'three-horned face' or 'three-horned face lizard'. The tri refers to the three horns on its face, while the cephal refers to his head. Since this dinosaur was a herbivore, it did not have any fangs, but it did have a beak and sharp teeth. It is believed that the Triceratops used these tools for defense purposes. Unfortunately, the Triceratops is now, obviously, extinct and we don't know too much about this dinosaur.

However, that won't stop us from sharing with you what we know about these famous dinos! Let's get on with it!

Description and Appearance

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The triceratops is a three-horned dinosaur that roamed the earth during the late Cretaceous period. It was one of the largest land animals of its time, measuring up to 30 feet in length and weighing more than 6,000 pounds. Its distinctive horns were used for defense and intimidation, and its bony plates along the back may have served as insulation or armor.  Its beak-like mouth may have been adapted to strip leaves from branches, not to mention its characteristic stance with head lowered and tail raised.

The triceratops is classified as a ceratopsian, or horned dinosaur, whose name means 'horned face.' Its skull was large in proportion to the body, reaching up to five feet in length, and its jaws included rows of long, sharp teeth. While they are sometimes depicted with the three horns extending outward from the nose to behind each eye, recent fossil discoveries suggest that these were not horns at all but rather solid extensions of the skin protruding from the skull.

This dinosaur stood up to 26 ft (8 m) tall and weighed as much as 6 tons (5,443 kg). It was a quadrupedal herbivore that had an average length of around 30 feet (9 m). With a massive skull that was 5 feet (1.5 m) long, a large beak, and rows of sharp teeth, the triceratops were an imposing sight in prehistoric times.

This large, plant-eating dinosaur has three horns on its face and a shield of bone and skin that stretches from its neck to the end of its tail. However, paleontologists have found out that the triceratops actually had no horns on their head; Instead, they had what looked like horns but were really skin-covered horns with blood vessels running through them. The horns, which may have been brightly colored, were probably used in mating battles to impress females or to intimidate rival suitors.

Nowadays, though it isn’t impressing any females or intimidating any rival suitors of the same kind, it has impressed many kids and adults. With toys and so many more accessory designs inspired by this dinosaur, it isn’t a surprise that this species is one of the most famous creatures today. In fact, Gage Beasley’s Lifelike Triceratops Dinosaur Soft Stuffed Plush Toy may very well be a direct descendant of the dino, considering the details.

Gage Beasley’s Lifelike Triceratops Dinosaur Soft Stuffed Plush Toy

Diet

The triceratops was a herbivore (plant-eater) and fed mainly on vegetation such as ferns. It used its beak to crop close to the ground, whereas the lower teeth helped it chew more effectively by grinding up tougher plant material. The triceratops may have had some difficulty chewing with all those teeth, so paleontologists believe it swallowed gastroliths (stones) to help break down and digest its food. These gastroliths would be passed through the digestive system, which was very long because of this dinosaur's size.

Reproduction

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Scientists do not know for certain how the triceratops reproduced. Some scientists believe that males and females mated in herds during at least some part of the year, suggesting that perhaps multiple members of a group would mate with dominant males in the herd.  Scientists have also found fossilized eggs and babies next to adult specimens in some locations, indicating that the triceratops cared for its young. However, these eggs and babies might also have represented animals killed in some sort of predator attack.

Distribution

The triceratops lived during the late Cretaceous period along with other dinosaurs on earth. Scientists are not certain of all places where triceratops have been found, but they do know that these dinosaurs have been found in North America and Asia. The climate back then was really warm so it is believed that the triceratops lived in swamps and grasslands, which also means they lived alongside dinosaurs like the apatosaurus, the ankylosaurus, and the hadrosaur.

The triceratops lived alongside other dinosaurs such as the tyrannosaurus rex during the late Cretaceous period. It was found all over North America and Asia, but scientists are not certain about this dinosaur's exact habitat because of its large size. Many paleontologists believe that the triceratops lived in swamps and grasslands, while others think they preferred to live near rivers.

Discovery

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The triceratops was a very large member of the dinosaur family. The first fossil bones were discovered in 1887 by John Bell Hatcher, who named the dino Triceratops because it had three horns on its head.

For twenty years, though, scientists couldn't decide if the horns were really for defense, as a modern rhino's. Then in 1905, Henry Fairfield Osborn decided that they were weapons after all, and he wrote that the most likely purpose of the three horns was to help Triceratops fight with rival males for territory or mates.

But scientists now believe that Triceratops used the horns to help get a good look at each other, not fight. A triceratops's eyes were way up on its head, probably so it could watch for predators from far off. Then it would crouch down and use its long neck to get closer to be able to see just how big a rival was.

Early paleontologists also thought triceratops was hornless on its head. But now we know it had a short, bony frill around its neck. It might have used the bony shield to protect itself or even to make itself look bigger when facing off with rivals.

Final Thoughts

The triceratops was a herbivore that used its three horns to fight with others of its species. It lived during the Late Cretaceous period and likely used them to help get a good look at each other rather than fight. Scientists believe they were found in North America and Asia, but their exact habitat is unknown because of their large size.

Many paleontologists believe that the triceratops lived in swamps and grasslands, while others think they preferred to live near rivers. The triceratops was first discovered in 1887 by John Bell Hatcher, who named them Triceratops because each had three horns on its head. For twenty years scientists could not decide if the horns were for defense. The triceratops is now believed to have used its horns to help get a good look at others rather than fight.

 Cheers!

-GB


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