card
044

Protoceratopsian baby

OLogy Series
specimen
card
044

Protoceratopsian baby

OLogy Series
specimen

Paleontologists uncovered this just-hatched Protoceratops in 1997 at Ukhaa Tolgod. Like Triceratops, its North American relative, Protoceratops walked on 4 legs, was heavily built, and had a parrot-like beak. If this dinosaur had grown to adulthood, it would have developed a neck frill, too.

Dad, When Can I Get a
Frill, Too?
All ceratopian dinosaurs, such as Protoceratops and Triceratops, had a bony frill along the back of the skull. For many decades, scientists
wondered when in their lives these dinosaurs got this feature. In the late 1990s, when paleontologists discovered the skeletons of many young Protoceratops, they could better answer this question. The neck bones (cervical vertebrae) at the top
of a baby Protoceratops' spine are separated. But as the Protoceratops gets older, these vertebrae start to fuse, or join together. This gives their necks extra support to hold up with heavy, frilled heads.

What did Protoceratops chomp with its powerful jaws?

lizards and insects

tough, thick plants

Velociraptor eggs

Are you right?

Correct!

Its toothless, parrot-like beak suggests that it ate tough, thick plants such as cycads.

What was the function of Protoceratops' frill?

defense against predators

display structure to attract mates

no one knows

Are you right?

Correct!

Although there is much speculation about the purpose of the frill, the fossil evidence gives no definite answers.

Pete Makovicky

Some researchers think that dinosaurs, like birds, grew extremely fast, so babies reached adult sizes quickly.

Since one dig site contained Protoceratops of different sizes, these dinos probably remained near the nest as they grew.

Fact
or
Fiction
?

Fact

This evidence also suggests that adult Protoceratops protected their young and brought them food.

The fossils of dinosaur embryos and hatchlings are very common in Mongolia.

Fact
or
Fiction
?

Fiction

Don't paleontologists wish! Fossils of dinosaur embryos and hatchlings are scarce. These tiny bones were rarely preserved.

Protoceratopsian Baby
(pro-toe-ser-a-Top-see-an)
Locality Found: Mongolia
Age: Cretaceous 80 MYA
Size: 6 inches long
Prepared For: 2000 Museum exhibit Fighting Dinosaurs
Characteristics: The Protoceratopsian baby has a parrot-like beak and a very small undeveloped frill.

Image credits: courtesy of AMNH; Pete Makovicky: courtesy of Pete Makovicky.