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Triceratops Dinosaur

Updated on August 2, 2014
Will Apse profile image

The author is a biologist who worked in conservation, aquatic biology, and woodland management over many years.

Triceratops Dinosaur
Triceratops Dinosaur
Triceratops compared to a Human
Triceratops compared to a Human

Triceratops fossilized Skeleton in American Museum of Natural History.

The huge bony frill at the back of the head could have evolved to protect the neck from predators like T.rex or to intimidate male rivals in mating rituals.
The huge bony frill at the back of the head could have evolved to protect the neck from predators like T.rex or to intimidate male rivals in mating rituals.

The Facts

Size: Around 30 feet long (9 m), 10 feet tall (3 m), weight from to 6-12 tons

A triceratops horn could be up to three feet (one meter) long.

Instead of a mouth with teeth, Triceratops had a large, bony beak similar to a modern bird.

First fossils were found in 1887 near Denver Colerado. A complete fossil specimen has never been found.

There are many other similar and closely related kinds of dinosaurs and scientists call them Ceratopsidae. These are all horned dinosaurs found mainly in the US.

They appeared quite late in the history of the dinosaurs- after the family that included the brontosaurus and at roughly the same time as the T.rex. It is possible that T.rex preyed on the Triceratops. It is also possible that triceratops defended itself like a present day rhino - by a fierce charge- but no one can be completely sure.

Only seven individual Triceratops have ever been found. There are many more fossils of close relatives though- and studying these helps scientists understand Triceratops.

Dinosaur Families (check out top right)

Eolution and family tree of triceratops compared with other species.
Eolution and family tree of triceratops compared with other species.
A cycad. Reckoned to be a favorite triceratops meal.
A cycad. Reckoned to be a favorite triceratops meal.
Image of a pair of T.rex. They would probably have enjoyed a Triceratops snack.
Image of a pair of T.rex. They would probably have enjoyed a Triceratops snack.
Rheindeer lock horns when they fight for females. Did Triceratops do the same?
Rheindeer lock horns when they fight for females. Did Triceratops do the same?

Triceratops Behavior


Triceratops were herbivores, in other words they ate plants, possibly cycads which were the most common trees of the period. The large round body of the animal was needed to contain a long digestive system. Digesting tough plant material takes a long time.

Scientists believe that they moved in herds like many plants eaters (deer, antelopes, cattle) do today.This would have given extra protection from large predators like T.rex. Evidence of herding in close relatives of Triceratops comes from several finds of large collection of fossil bones where many individuals died in the same place. It is easiest to explain a large collection of individuals dieing and being fossilized together if they moved around in groups.

Triceratops reproduced by laying eggs* and the young probably stayed close to the parents to avoid being eaten by predators.

Apart from protection, the large horns were also probably used during mating. Modern male reindeer for instance lock horns and push when they decide who is strongest and should get the females. Triceratops might have done the same.

*You can find out more about dinosaur eggs here: Dinosaur eggs

Triceratops have large heads and big round bodies which people find cute -- cute enough to make into toys. This one is called Kota.
Triceratops have large heads and big round bodies which people find cute -- cute enough to make into toys. This one is called Kota.

Triceratops Popularity

Triceratops dinosaurs have always been popular. They were big, looked like (and probably behaved like) rhinoceros and, perhaps best of all, they are no longer around to trample us underfoot as they rush to eat a tasty cycad!

They have a very large head compared to the rest of their body and this is something human beings find cute, mainly because this reminds people of children, who also have large heads relative to their body size.

Many Triceratops toys have appeared like Kota pictured right.

A sure sign of Triceratops enduring popularity is the number of stamps that feature the dinosaur, from countries all around the world.

Triceratops stamps
Triceratops stamps
A triceratops in the movie 'Jurassic Park'
A triceratops in the movie 'Jurassic Park'

Triceratops at the Movies

Triceratops have appeared in many movies. One memorable appearance was in 1 million years BC. It was spectacular when it was released thirty years ago but not very realistic.

The animal is shown in scenes with spear carrying hunters but human beings were not around during the time of the dinosaurs! People have only evolved over the last few hundred thousand years, Evidence suggests that completely modern human beings only appeared around thirty thousand years ago,

The dog hat.
The dog hat.

The Fans

People make models, knit hats, paint and draw this appealing creature. You can even buy a triceratops dog hat!

Below is a fan's tribute to the Triceratops with many images of the dinosaur.

Triceratops Slideshow

Walking With Dinosaurs Arena Show

There is a spectacular arena show which features many dinosaurs including triceratops. It comes from the BBC who made Walking with Dinosaurs, one of the most successful representations of dinosaurs on the screen. The TV series used all the latest scientific evidence to present as complete a picture of dinosaur life as possible. The aerean show does the same thing while cranking up the woow factor.

During 2009 it was the most visited Arena show in the world as it toured country after country, In the US it was number one, beating AC/DC and Bruce Springsteen

Find out more here:

http://www.dinosaurlive.com/

Comments

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    • profile image

      t-rex 

      6 years ago

      i hate triceratops i love t-rex's

    • tom hellert profile image

      tom hellert 

      6 years ago from home

      WA,

      Imagine the fertilizer though the farmer down the street would be lovin, TC the TriCeratops that is if TC didn't eat all his crops first...

      TH

    • Will Apse profile imageAUTHOR

      Will Apse 

      6 years ago

      I think Triceratops might make a very smelly house guest eating all those veggies!

      Thanks for dropping by,Tom.

    • tom hellert profile image

      tom hellert 

      6 years ago from home

      Will,

      As a geologist I have studied old life- dinos etc there are some schools of thought indicating had disease and, vocanism and finally meteors not knocked off the dinos- we could be speaking dinosaurian dialects right now I always figured I would have been a big broto or maybe a mean spirited Allosaurus...I loved the Triceratops but I don't think I could live on veggies-

      great piece here

      TH

    • Will Apse profile imageAUTHOR

      Will Apse 

      7 years ago

      I also loved dinosaurs when I was a kid- I think part of the interest is the big/little contrast. Dinosaurs are big, grown ups are big. And the best part of the story is that the little mammals got bigger and took over the world!

    • sarmack profile image

      Sarah 

      7 years ago from Washington State

      Very good hub, Will Apse. My son loved dinosaurs as a child, like so many other children! He would have loved the videos. The videos are great!

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