ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

If The Torosaurus is a Mature Form of Triceratops

Updated on August 11, 2019
Mamerto profile image

Mamerto Adan is a feature writer back in college for a a school paper. Science is one of his many interests, and his favorite topic.

Sometimes, nothing is permanent in science. Ideas must give way to newer and more accurate discoveries. Most of the time, people are okay with it, though letting go a beloved and accepted views that became obsolete could be painful, if not violent. Nevertheless, people will learn to accept, for the common good and for the benefits of the civilized world. With that said, in the paleontology world it was suggested that a dinosaur species might be just a younger version of another. If this is true, then this dinosaur species will have to go into the bowels of discarded science facts.

Not that easy to accept in this case, as the Triceratops is a beloved dinosaur by many. Whenever T-rex was mentioned, this horned dino will surely come to mind. We grow up with this mental image of a prehistoric battle between the two titans, with the T-rex and Triceratops locked in a mortal struggle. Hence if it’s true that the Triceratops was indeed just a youngling of another horned dino, then our childhood is ruined. Well, there is nothing wrong with replacing the Triceratops with another creature in the T-rex duel. People will learn to live with it right?

But we need to consult good old science before we kick out the poor thing.

It Happened Before, in the Case of the Dracorex

Too bad, because Hagrid won't be too happy.
Too bad, because Hagrid won't be too happy.

Extinction seems to be happening even in fossil studies, as in the case of an interesting find just recently. In 2004, a dinosaur skull was donated to the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis, which was dug out from Hell Creek Formation in South Dakota. Bob Bakker and Robert Sullivan made a formal description of the creature in 2006 and was named Dracorex hogwartsia (dragon king of Hogwarts) for a good reason. The skull boasts horns and spikes that made it resemble a mythical dragon. So much was its resemblance to the creatures of legend, that it got the Harry Potter school for a name. In general, the Dracorex was herbivore dinosaur with long muzzle and spiky, horny and bumpy head. It was closely related to the Pachycephalosaurus and was about 7 ft 10 in long.

But not so fast, according to renowned Paleontologist Jack Horner. During the annual meeting of the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology, he presented evidence from the analysis of the Dracorex skull, suggesting that the creature is nothing more than the female, or younger version of the Pachycephalosaurus, where the skull is still underdeveloped. He stated that the Dracorex are known only in from juvenile fossils, while the Pachycephalosaurus is known only in adult fossils. He also based his findings from the analysis and skull comparison of younger Pachycephalosaurus and Dracorex.

Bad news for Hagrid.

Then There is the Torosaurus

Reconstruction of the Torosaurus.
Reconstruction of the Torosaurus.

Back to the Torosaurus, let’s first revisit how the remains are unearthed back in 1891. It was two years after the Triceratops was named when it was found in Wyoming by John Bill Hatcher. The term Torosaurus was coined by his employee Othniel Charles Marsh. Unlike the Triceratops, the Torosaurus had a more elongated frills, with two holes.

Now, the name Torosaurus seemed to be translated as “bull lizard,” as the term “toro” is Spanish for bull, or from “Taurus,” which is Latin for bull. Unlike the Triceratops, the Torosaurus remains are rarer.

Yet the name could also be translated as “perforated lizard,” due to the holes on the frill (from the Greek verb “toreo,” to pierce).

In terms of size, this creature was never small. In fact, they are massive, the size of large Triceratops. The “brow” horns (the horns the stretch above the eyes) are long and curved outward. It also boasted a nose horn like the Triceratops.

Then there is the frill.

As what was mentioned above, the frill was longer than the Triceratops. This made the skull, based on some estimation to be 2.57 meters long.

Aside from that, there is not much difference between the Torosaurus and the Triceratops.

Why Torosaurus Could be an Older Triceratops

The Torosaurus (above) and the Triceratops skull (below).
The Torosaurus (above) and the Triceratops skull (below).

Except for the large frill with holes, the two creatures are quite similar and could be close relatives. They even shared the same habitat. But what if they were the same species, and the Torosaurus represented the final stage of maturity of the Triceratops?

The idea that the creature could be a mature form of the Triceratops was proposed by John Scannella and Jack Horner in September 25, 2009, at the conference of the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology.

Apart from the many similarities between the two creatures, Horner noted that young Triceratops have backward pointing horns, that became forward as they mature (which the Torosaurus possessed). Then, subadult Triceratops have two thinning areas in their frills. The same place where the holes of the Torosaurus frills are located. In June 2010, Horner and Scannella also suggested that another related species Nedoceratops could be a Triceratops on its way into maturing into a Torosaurus, as the holes on the frills suggested.

But Why it is Not

The Nedoceratops skull, with holes possibly from injuries.
The Nedoceratops skull, with holes possibly from injuries.

The “Toromorph” hypothesis, which suggests that the Triceratops is just a young Torosaurus was not accepted unanimously by paleontologist. They pointed out that the hypothesis is simply too inconclusive and have flaws.

The main weakness of the hypothesis is the lack of transitional forms between the Triceratops and the Torosaurus. Yes, they have the Nedoceratops which was regarded as an intermediate form. But it was challenged when Andrew Farke concluded that through the re-description of the only known Nedoceratops skull, that it was a unique species. And the holes, being surrounded by swellings were pathological in origin and not part of maturity growth (caused by disease or injury). What’s more, there was only one known skull, which made it inconclusive.

Then there was the study made Nicholas Longrich and Daniel Field. They analyzed 35 known specimens of the Triceratops and Torosaurus. They concluded that old and mature Triceratops were already represented in the fossil records, while there were also young Torosaurus fossils.

Farke also pointed out several weaknesses of the hypothesis, which includes the thinning of bone in the frill. The thin bones in Triceratops won’t lead to holes in later life but represent muscle attachments. The morphological changes that a Triceratops must undergo to become a Torosaurus must include additional bones in the frill, which does not increase when frill grows, reversion of bone structure from adult, to immature, to adult again, and the development of frill holes at a later stage than usual.

Lastly, he noted that there are Triceratop skulls with deeply veined frills, which represent advanced age, while the smooth bone structure (and unfused sutures) of the large Torosaurus specimen indicate that was a sub-adult.

Overall

The notion that the Torosaurs is an old Triceratops is questionable, given the lack of transitional forms, and the existence of a Torosaurus subadult.

Hence, we still get to keep our well loved Triceratops.

References:

1. Scannella, J. and Horner, J.R. (2010). "Torosaurus Marsh, 1891, is TriceratopsMarsh, 1889 (Ceratopsidae: Chasmosaurinae): synonymy through ontogeny ." Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology.

2. Horner, Jack. (Nov 2011). TEDX Talks: "Shape-shifting Dinosaurs".

3. Farke, A. A. (2011) "Anatomy and taxonomic status of the chasmosaurine ceratopsidNedoceratops hatcheri from the Upper Cretaceous Lance Formation of Wyoming, U.S.A."

4. Farke, A., 2002, "A review of Torosaurus (Dinosauria: Ceratopsidae) specimens from Texas and New Mexico", Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology

Comments

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No comments yet.

    working

    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, hubpages.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://hubpages.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

    Show Details
    Necessary
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Features
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Marketing
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Statistics
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
    ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)