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Triceratops - Horns of a Vegetarian Dinosaur

Triceratops - Horns of a Vegetarian Dinosaur STEM Visual Arts World History Archeological Wonders

Triceratops - a five-ton adult dinosaur which ate vegetation, not meat - had an interesting appearance.  It was characterized, among other things, by very large horns.

How did such a creature live?  A ceratopsian, it had grinding teeth and a very large, very heavy frill.  We learn more from the University of California’s Museum of Paleontology:

How did ceratopsians live? Their "beak" and rows of grinding cheek teeth suggest that they fed on tough vegetation. 

The huge, heavy "frill" of ceratopsians such as Triceratops may have served as armor against the attacks of saurischian predators like Tyrannosaurus, which lived in the same time and place as Triceratops.

However, other ceratopsians had smaller frills and/or frills with large openings; such frills would have been little defense against a predator. So ceratopsian frills may also have functioned as heat radiators, or signaling devices, or to attract mates, in addition to whatever protective function they may or may not have had.

Recent work on the oxygen isotopes found inside the bony frill, which indicate the relative temperatures of different parts of the bone, supports the first of these hypotheses:  the frills functioned as heat radiators.

This image depicts the frontal view of a Triceratops.  Click on it for a better view.

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Author: Carole D. Bos, J.D. 5186stories and lessons created

Original Release: Oct 07, 2013

Updated Last Revision: May 26, 2019


Media Credits

Image online, courtesy University of California Museum of Paleontology.

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