Triceratops was a genus of herbivorous dinosaurs that lived around the end of the Cretaceous period. All species lived on the North American continent and are, like all the other dinosaurs, extinct now. It was about 9 metres (30 feet) long and probably weighed around 5,400 kg. The name means "three horned face".
Triceratops was discovered by John Bell Hatcher in 1888. Its declaration as a legitimate dinosaur came when an intact skull was found. Previous to this, it was misidentified as a type of buffalo.
Triceratops is a part of the Ceratopsids family which included dinosaurs very semiliar to the Triceratops and only differ in size and skull shape. For example: Torosaurus, Protoceratops, Pentceratops etc.
Triceratops belongs to the Ornithischian dinosaurs (means: "bird's hip") and was walking on four legs. Its length was estimated between 8-11 m and its weight between 5-8 tons. Paleontologists believe that Triceratops lived in herds like dinosaurian buffalo or moose. Its food was plants and shrubbery and it used its beak to cut down branches with leaves. Behind the beak Triceratops had 2 lines of teeth for chewing the food.
Triceratops had very large skulls filled with huge muscles and hard bones. These had one short horn above its nose and two long horns above its eyebrows. The skull ended with a large bony frill which protected the neck.
Scientist think that the horns and the frill were used for serveral purposes:
- A means of defence against carnivors such as the Tyrannosaurus rex.
- A means of communication between the herd members.
- A means of battering another Triceratops over female or territory.
- A means of courting females.
- A status symbol which reflects (or determines) the individual's status in the herd.
- T. americanus
- T. horridus