All About the Styracosaurus: The Pointed Lizard


Photo: Kitti Kahotong via Getty Images

Styracosaurus is a genus of herbivorous ceratopsian dinosaurs from the Cretaceous Period. Triceratops, Einiosaurus, and Centrosaurus are other members of the group. The dinosaurs of this group have horns and frills. 

The Styracosaurus with a horned head lived approximately 75 million years ago. It was a component of the Late Cretaceous period and coincided with the Campanian stage of the Late Cretaceous.

It was first described in 1881 by Edward Drinker Cope and is known from at least five well-preserved skeletons. Styracosaurus was a large animal, reaching up to 20ft in length and weighing 4 metric tons. The skull was large and ornamented with an array of horns and spikes, including a long horn on the nose and a pair of long spikes protruding from the back of the head.

Description and Appearance

Photo: Elenarts108 via Getty Images

Styracosaurus' body is often compared to the modern rhinoceros since it was relatively wide and had a short tail. It had tiny legs, but the rear legs were considerably longer than the front.

The Styracosaurus skull has given researchers a wealth of information about this dinosaur's face. It had a massive skull with a giant nostril and a vertically positioned nose horn. An incomplete nose horn measuring 55.8 cm was recorded in a specimen.

It had a large neck frill with four to six horns or spikes that appeared to emerge like other ceratopsians. Additionally, there were shorter horns arranged on its cheekbones. There was also a beak-like structure in the skull of this dinosaur.

It also had cheek teeth positioned in groups called batteries. In such a mouth, the older teeth would be replaced by newer ones continually, leaving no teeth in use simultaneously.

The size of an adult Styracosaurus was estimated to be around 6.5 meters long, weighing in at 4 metric tons, and its height was approximately 5.9 ft. The measurement from the nose to the tip of the tail was around 5 to 6 meters. However, the Styracosaurus was proportionately shorter than the ceratopsian Triceratops, which grew to a length of 9 meters.

Styracosaurus was a massive dinosaur with a long, curved horn on its snout and frill-like features on its skull. It resembled an elephant or rhinoceros in terms of the overall shape of its body, with a bloated trunk and thick, squat legs topped with enormous feet.

The function of these horns and spikes is unclear, but they might have been used for display or defense. Styracosaurus is one of the most famous dinosaurs and has appeared in numerous books, television shows, and films.

In the world of paleontology, the Styracosaurus's methods of expression have been a point of contention. So many researchers think that the frill on Styracosaurus was its primary form of communication.

The frill of this ceratopsian might have contained: 

  • Holes
  • Allowing blood to rush in
  • Giving the frill bright colors to communicate with other members of its species.


Styracosaurus was a plant-eater or herbivore. Cycads, ferns, and palms were all eaten by this dinosaur. This dinosaur has been regarded as a low-browser, following other ceratopsians. According to some paleontologists, this horned dinosaur was capable of knocking down trees to consume the softer portion of the plant.

Dinosaur diets were limited to a variety of thick-growing plant life in the late Cretaceous period because the grass had yet to develop. We can infer the diets of Styracosaurus and other ceratopsians from the arrangement and shape of their teeth suited to intensive chewing. It's also probable that Styracosaurus ingested gastroliths to aid in the grinding down challenging plant matter in its big stomach.

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Being oviparous, the Styracosaurus albertensis dinosaurs reproduced by laying eggs. It is unclear how much information there is about these ceratopsians' reproductive cycles and habits at this time. Styracosaurus species members likely assisted in raising their young. 

Distribution and Habitat

Styracosaurus fossils were found in the Dinosaur Provincial Park of Alberta, Canada, in North America. From the Dinosaur Park Formation, researchers excavated fossils. Therefore, it has been determined that these dinosaurs were native and endemic to North America.

The Dinosaur Provincial Park in Alberta, Canada, was formed by floodplains and waterways that became increasingly marshy over time. The Late Cretaceous was warmer than today's climate. However, there was adequate rainfall as well. In terms of vegetation, ferns, conifers, and angiosperms were all abundant. Conifers dominated the vegetation.

Researchers feel that these reptiles were gregarious, living in herds, presumably as a defense against predators, since the discovery of 'bonebeds,' which exhibit hundreds of these reptiles' skeletal remains. The availability of the horns indicates herd behavior, implying that they would use them to communicate with other dinosaurs.

Alternative theories have been offered for such bonebeds. Another school of thought suggested that the Styracosaurus dinosaurs lived in isolation throughout the dry season, congregating near a water source. However, because there was no running water at the site, they all perished together, leaving a bone bed that paleontologists now study. As a result, this ceratopsid dinosaur's social structure and behavior are being investigated further.

Ancestry Lineage

Photo: MR1805 via Getty Images

Styracosaurus existed 10 million years before the KT extinction, providing plenty of opportunities for different species to produce new ceratopsian genera. It is widely acknowledged that the adequately equipped Pachyrhinosaurus (thick-nosed lizard) and Einiosaurus (buffalo lizard) of late Cretaceous North America were natural descendants of Styracosaurus. However, as a matter of the ceratopsian category, we would need more definitive fossil evidence to say for sure.

 Relationship with Albertosaurus

Styracosaurus lived around the same time (about 75 million years ago) as Albertosaurus, a powerful tyrannosaur. However, a fully matured, four-ton Styracosaurus adult must have been practically unsusceptible to predation. This is why Albertosaurus, other raptors, and carnivorous tyrannosaurs focused on juveniles, aged individuals, and newborns, snatching them off from sluggish herds as contemporary lions do with antelopes.

Final Thoughts

Conclusively, Styracosaurus was one of the last few dinosaurs to develop before the K-T mass extinction event in the Late Cretaceous period. It was a large animal, typically reaching up to 20ft in length and weighing 4 metric tons. The styracosaurus was most likely native to North America and vanished from the planet during the Late Cretaceous mass extinction event.

This concludes our article on Styracosaurus, on the spiked lizard. If you have any information about the Styracosaurus, share it in the comments. Thank you for reading!



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