Pages

Advertisement

Friday, July 6, 2007

Triceratops

Triceratops at the Smithsonian.
Triceratops (meaning 'three-horned face') was a herbivorous genus of ceratopsid dinosaur that lived during the late Maastrichtian stage of the Late Cretaceous Period, around 68 to 65 million years ago (mya) in what is now North America. It was one of the last dinosaurs to appear before the great Cretaceous–Tertiary extinction event. Bearing a large bony frill and three horns on its large four-legged body and conjuring similarities with the modern rhinoceros, Triceratops is one of the most recognizable of all dinosaurs. Though it shared the landscape with, and was preyed upon by the fearsome Tyrannosaurus, it is unclear whether the two battled the way they are commonly depicted in movies and children's dinosaur books.

Although no complete skeleton has been found, Triceratops is well-known from numerous partial specimens collected since the introduction of the genus in 1887. The function of their frills and three distinctive facial horns has long inspired debate. Although traditionally viewed as defensive weapons against predators, the latest theories explain how these features were probably primarily used in display for courtship and dominance, much like the antlers and horns of modern reindeer, mountain goats or rhinoceros beetles.

Triceratops is the best-known of the ceratopsids, though the genus' exact placement within the group has been a point of contention amongst paleontologists. Two species, T. horridus and T. prorsus, are considered valid, although many other species have been named.

No comments: