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Triceratops

Updated on April 30, 2013

One of the most well-known Ceratopsian dinosaurs in the world, Triceratops was a herbivore that lived 68-65 million years ago during the late cretaceous period in what is now North America. It was about 25-30 feet long 6-9 feet high and could have weighed between 6 and 12 tons. It's most striking feature like all ceratopsians, was it's huge skull, complete with frill that covered the neck, a pair of lethal 3 foot long horns above each eye, and a smaller horn above it's nose. This gigantic skull was connected to a ball and socket joint at the neck, allowing Triceratops to swing it's head in a deadly circular motion. Triceratops like other ceratopsians also sported a powerful parrot-like beak, that was more than capable of delivering a nasty bite to any would be predator such as a Tyrannosaur. Tyrannosaurs were Triceratops arch nemesis. There is a wealth of fossil evidence that shows these two dinosaurs clashed on a regular basis.

Exhibit at The Museum Of Natural History in New York City
Exhibit at The Museum Of Natural History in New York City
Triceratops teeth
Triceratops teeth

Lifestyle and habitat

Triceratops probably spent much of its time grazing on plant matter. It used its beak and powerful jaws with a battery of hundreds of teeth lined up in rows that would be replaced through it's lifespan. These teeth were particularly tough in design to shred and grind cycads, ferns, and other low-lying vegetation. In order to maintain such a massive size Triceratops was likely eating all the time. It is portrayed as being a herding animal, although fossil records don't indicate this. Many Triceratops finds were of single animals. However a few of it's relatives like Centrosaurus and Pachyrhinosaurus have been discovered in bone beds containing hundreds of individuals at a time. Triceratops were very common in the late cretaceous period with paleontologists like Bruce Erickson claiming to have seen over 200 individual skulls in the field alone.

The Western Interior Seaway
The Western Interior Seaway
Tyrannosaur attacking a Triceratops
Tyrannosaur attacking a Triceratops
Triceratops forming a defensive ring around their young
Triceratops forming a defensive ring around their young

Ecology and predators

During the late cretaceous period it was a bit warmer in North America than it is today, however throughout the period the earth had began to cool because of continental drift. This is due to the plate tectonics which cause the Americas to gradually move westward, and making the Atlantic Ocean wider. The Western Interior Seaway was a huge inland sea that split the continent of North America into two continents, Laramidia and Appalachia. During most of the mid- and late-Cretaceous Period the dinosaurs had seen much success especially the Triceratops and it's relatives. Aside from Anatotitan, Triceratops was a most common sight in the cretaceous landscape. Normally a full grown Triceratops would have little to fear from most predators. Their young however were a different story. It has been theorized that Triceratops would get together to defend their young and form a ring with the babies in the center and the adults horns facing outward to deter predators. However their is no fossil evidence to validate this claim. Fossil evidence does show that from time to time, Triceratops' would get into battles with Tyrannosaurs. There has been findings of Triceratops' frills being bitten, as well as horns that appear to have been ripped off, and even bones that have been chomped on by Tyrannosaurs. This shows a clear predator prey relationship between the two animals.

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      jenn scott 5 years ago

      there like an elephent but with three horns

    • ChrisIndellicati profile image
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      ChrisIndellicati 5 years ago from New York, NY

      I'm glad you like me! :D

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      Lukács Tamás 5 years ago

      I Like you!

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      ChrisIndellicati 5 years ago from New York, NY

      I'm glad you enjoyed it Maddie :)

    • Maddie Ruud profile image

      Maddie Ruud 5 years ago from Oakland, CA

      Triceratops were my favorite dinosaurs when I was a kid. I even made a little purple one out of clay. Of course, I didn't fully appreciate all of the details you've laid out here at that time, but I do now! Great Hub!

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      ChrisIndellicati 5 years ago from New York, NY

      Who knows the oceans are deep and some thought to be extinct animals have already been found like coelacanth so anything is possible

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      Phoebe Pike 5 years ago

      Do you believe that there might be some "dinosaurs" still living at the bottom of the ocean? Like some deep-sea crabs or something of that nature?

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      ChrisIndellicati 5 years ago from New York, NY

      No I mean evolutionary niche like after one animal dies out an animal of a different lineage would take it's place and evolve a similar form. Like Icthyosaurs, whoch was a marine reptile, but had a striking similarity to a dolphin which is of course a mammal.

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      Phoebe Pike 5 years ago

      If all the dinosaurs died out, then how could anything evolve from them?

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      ChrisIndellicati 5 years ago from New York, NY

      Yeah they do. That's because back in those times Triceratops filled the evolutionary niche of Rhinos or Elephants. Thanks for commenting :)

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      Phoebe Pike 5 years ago

      They kind of remind me of elephants and rhinos.