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Triceratops horridus

OLogy Series
extinct animal
card
010

Triceratops horridus

OLogy Series
extinct animal

This famous dinosaur, found in the United States and Canada, was one of the last ceratopians to go extinct. Its brow horns and snout horn inspired its name which means "three-horned face."

Are These Buffalo Horns?
In 1887, before any complete ceratopian skulls had been discovered, paleontologist Othniel Charles Marsh received a large package from a geologist in Colorado. It contained two fossilized horns, each about half a meter (2 feet) long. Even though the horns were buried in Cretaceous sandstone, Marsh guessed they came from an extinct bison. So, he named the species Bison alticornis ("high-horned bison"). Two years later, Marsh figured out that the horns actually belonged to a dinosaur that had three horns on its head. So he renamed this fossil Triceratops ("three-horned face").

Triceratops' strong teeth acted like shearing blades, so scientists think this dinosaur probably ate:

fruit

leafy plants

thick, tough plants

Are you right?

Correct!

Triceratops' teeth were well-suited for eating tough, hard-to-chew plants, such as cycads and palm fronds.

...during a beef roundup, the boys found a large head ...with horns as long as a hoe handle and eye holes as big as your hat.

– Charles Guernsey, cattle rancher in the 1880s

An adult Triceratops weighed more than the largest modern elephants.

Fact
or
Fiction
?

Fact

The heaviest elephants weigh about 5450 kilograms (12,000 pounds). An adult Triceratops is believed to have weighed 5450 to 8150 kilograms (12,000 to 18,000 pounds)!

Scientific Name: Triceratops horridus
Pronunciation: try-SER-uh-tops hoh-RID-us
Meaning: "three-horned face"
Locality Found: United States and Canada
Age: Late Cretaceous, 65 million yeas ago
Size: 6 to 8.5 meters (20 to 28 feet) long
Characteristics: Triceratops was a horned dinosaur with scissor-like rows of teeth used for chewing plants. It was one of the last non-bird dinosaurs to roam Earth! 

Image credits: Rick Spears; Triceratops Skull: courtesy of AMNH.