The Triceratops dinosaur is one of the most famous dinosaurs. It is widely known for its large head with three horns. It is believed that the triceratops lived during a portion of the Cretaceous period around 70 million years ago. Fossils have been found in North America in both the western US and Canada.
Physical Characteristics of the Triceratops
Lots of fossils of the triceratops have been found enabling dinosaur paleontologists to figure out what they looked like. The average full grown triceratops weighed in around 7 to 12 tons. That's up to 24,000 pounds for the really big ones! Counting their long tail, a large triceratops was around 30 feet long and around 9 feet tall. The triceratops was armored with three fierce horns; one on its snout like a Rhino and two long horns (as much as three feet long) above its eyes. The back side of the triceratops' skull had something called a frill that covered its neck. The frill was probably useful for defense against dinosaur predators like the T-Rex. The triceratops was likely a difficult foe with its large size, strength, and huge horned skull.
Triceratops Size Comparison Source: oktaytanhu, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
What did the Triceratops eat?
Triceratops were herbivores, meaning they ate plants and not animals or meat. They probably ate many varieties of plants and may have used their large bulk and strength to knock down trees in order to get at leaves like current day elephants. The Triceratops had rows and rows of teeth as well as a sharp hard beak, allowing them to slice and crush all sorts of vegetation. Despite their fearsome appearance, they didn't kill other dinosaurs for meat, but they likely would have defended themselves well from predators. It is thought that the triceratops were herding animals and that they wandered the plains on all fours in large herds eating plants as they went. Sort of like buffalo or cows do today.
Who discovered the Triceratops?
The first fossil discovery of a triceratops was in Denver, CO in 1887. However, it wasn't until John Bell Hatcher found a nearly complete skull in Wyoming in 1888, that Paleontologist Othniel Charles Marsh named and described the fossil as the triceratops. Since then many more samples have been found and scientists today know a good deal about how the triceratops may have lived.
Fun Facts About the Triceratops
Triceratops means three-horned-face in Greek.
The triceratops' head is one of the largest of any land animal discovered.
Some triceratops may have had as many as 800 teeth!
They are a member of the ceratopsia suborder of dinosaurs.
It probably wasn't a very fast dinosaur.
Triceratops Skull Source: Nekarius, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons