With its three-horns, frilled head, and massive size, this well-known dinosaur appears very intimidating. But were the Triceratops really fearsome animals? Let’s get to know more about this three-horned giant in this post.

 

What were the Triceratops distinctive features?

The most prominent feature of the Triceratops is its gigantic and scary-looking head. Almost one-third of the dinosaur’s entire body length, the Triceratop’s head is adorned with two massive horns above its eyes and one smaller one on its snout. The rear of its head is surrounded by a bony frill with spikes. 


Scientists have not agreed on the functions of the Triceratops’ frill. Some suggest that it may have been used to defend themselves from predators. Others believe it helps to regulate the dino’s body temperature. Another theory suggests that it may have helped these dinosaurs in selecting their mates. 


The Triceratops’ mouth is shaped like a beak. It had powerful jaws lined with rows of sharp teeth arranged in groups called batteries of 36 to 40 columns in each side of the jaw. Each column had three to five stacked teeth. It can have up to 800 teeth. Tooth replacement was continuous throughout a Triceratops lifetime.


The Triceratops had very strong limbs to support its body. Its forelimbs were shorter than the rear limbs. The forelimbs each had three hooves while the rear had four hooves each.  


The underside of this three-horned giant was covered with scutes which is similar to crocodile skin. But other parts of its body is covered by hexagonal scales. Some experts think that some parts of its skin may have been covered by bristle-like formations.

How big was the Triceratops?

Triceratops

The Triceratops was comparable in size to the African Elephant. It is around nine metres long, between 2.2 and 2.7 metres tall, and weighed between 6 to 12 metric tons. It was one of the largest among horned dinosaurs that existed. 

What kind of dinosaur was the Triceratops?

 

The Triceratops belongs to a family of sauropod dinosaurs called Ceratopsidae. Ceratopsids, as they are called, were quadrupedal dinosaurs characterised by the presence of horns, frill around their neck and a beak-like mouth.


Other less popular dinosaurs that belong to this family include the Centrasaurus, Styracosaurus, Nasutoceratops, Pentaceratops, Chasmosaurus, Eotriceratops, and Pachyrhinosaurus.


How many kinds of Triceratops were there?

Since the Triceratops was discovered, up to 16 species of the dinosaur had been proposed. But only two are considered as valid species of the Triceratops at present: the T. horridus and the T. prorsus.


The T. prorsus’ nasal horn was longer, its snout shorter, and its top horn more upright compared to the T. horridus

What did the Triceratops eat?

Triceratops Eating Grass

Despite its aggressive appearance, the Triceratops was not a predator. Just like the other members of the Ceratopsidae family, the Triceratops was a herbivore. 


Its beak-like mouth is adapted for grasping and plucking plants and its teeth are suited for shredding and grinding vegetation. They may have eaten ferns, cycads, palms, and other plants. 

When and where did the Triceratops live?

Brachiosaurus and triceratops in the valley

The Triceratops first appeared in the Late Cretaceous period, about 68 million years ago in what is now part of North America. They became extinct in the Cretaceous–Paleogene extinction event which happened approximately 66 million years ago. 

When was the Triceratops first discovered?

The first bones of the Triceratops were found in 1887 in Denver, Colorado but it was wrongly identified as a bison at first. It was only after a year later, with the discovery of a much more complete skull, that the Triceratops was named and identified as a dinosaur. 


No complete skeletons have been unearthed up to now but partial skeletons and skulls have been found in various places in the United States namely Montana, South Dakota, North Dakota, and Wyoming, and also in some parts of Canada including Saskatchewan and Alberta.

How did the Triceratops get its name?

The Triceratops was named after its most prominent feature. Its name is derived from the ancient Greek words tri (τρί-) meaning three, keras (κέρας) meaning horn, and ops (ὤψ) meaning face.