The gentle giant from the Jurassic Park film has had quite an impact on the dinosaur-lover’s culture, and for more reasons than the movies. Resembling a Rhinoceros, it is likely the most commonly resembled dinosaur to our modern animals, and for reasons you can probably guess, it’s therefore a lot easier to relate to and love as children. So let’s take a bit of a closer look at our tri-horned friend that we all know and love on today’s blog of A Closer Look: The Triceratops!
“The first named specimen now attributed to Triceratops is a pair of brow horns attached to a skull roof, found near Denver, Colorado in the spring of 1887. This specimen was sent to Othniel Charles Marsh, who believed that the formation from which it came dated from the Pliocene, and that the bones belonged to a particularly large and unusual bison, which he named Bison alticornis. He realized that there were horned dinosaurs by the next year, which saw his publication of the genus Ceratops from fragmentary remains, but he still believed B. alticornis to be a Pliocene mammal. It took a third and much more complete skull to change his mind. The specimen, collected in 1888 by John Bell Hatcher from the Lance Formation of Wyoming, was initially described as another species of Ceratops. After reflection, Marsh changed his mind and gave it the generic name Triceratops, accepting his Bison alticornis as another species of Ceratops (it would later be added to Triceratops). The sturdy nature of the animal's skull has ensured that many examples have been preserved as fossils, allowing variations between species and individuals to be studied. Triceratops remains have subsequently been found in the American states of Montana and South Dakota (in addition to Colorado and Wyoming), and in the provinces of Saskatchewan and Alberta, Canada.”
What we know about its size:
Though not as large as some of the other herbivores that roamed the lands during its time, the Triceratops was no mere push-over, either… Just remember that those three horns were used to damage and kill as much as courting a mate.
“Individual Triceratops are estimated to have reached about 7.9 to 9.0 m (25.9–29.5 ft) in length, 2.9 to 3.0 m (9.5 to 9.8 ft) in height, and 6.1–12.0 tonnes (13,000–26,000 lb) in weight. The most distinctive feature is their large skull, among the largest of all land animals. The largest known skull (specimen MWC 7584, formerly BYU 12183) is estimated to have been 2.5 metres (8.2 ft) in length when complete, and could reach almost a third of the length of the entire animal. A specimen of T. horridus named Kelsey measured 7.3 metres (24 ft) long with a 1.98 metres (6.5 ft) skull, stood about 2.3 metres (7.5 ft) tall, and was estimated by the Black Hills institute to weight nearly 6 tonnes (5.9 long tons; 6.6 short tons). A Triceratops 8 metres (26 ft) long has been estimated by Gregory S. Paul to have massed 9.3 tonnes (9.2 long tons; 10.3 short tons). It bore a single horn on the snout, above the nostrils, and a pair of horns approximately 1 m (3.3 ft) long, with one above each eye. In 2010, paleontologists revealed a fossil (named "Yoshi's Trike," MOR 3027) with 115-centimetre-long (3.77 ft) horn cores, housed and displayed at the Museum of the Rockies in Montana. To the rear of the skull was a relatively short, bony frill, adorned with epoccipitals in some specimens. Most other ceratopsids had large fenestrae in their frills, while those of Triceratops were noticeably solid. T. horridus can be distinguished from T. prorsus by having a shallower snout.”
What we know about its legendary status:
Though it lived 68 million years ago in the late Cretaceous Period, the long generations haven’t been able to separate us from loving the dinosaur known for its three horns. Even in animated films such as The Land Before Time, the Triceratops is portrayed as a loving, friendly companion who would help you till the very end. Kids have grown up loving the dinosaur’s portrayal on Barney & Friends as well, as the iconic Baby Bop Triceratops who sings and dances around. All in all, the Triceratops hasn’t lost any love within the culture, and you can admit – if you were around back then and had to pick a faithful companion who was guaranteed not to try and munch on you, but could very well defend you from other attacks, this is the creature we would all run to. The lovable, three-horned Triceratops.