Protoceratops is an extinct genus of ceratopsian dinosaur that lived around 86-71 million years ago. They were much smaller in size and lacked well-developed horn, unlike other ceratopsians. This genus has two recognized species – Protoceratops andrewsi (type species) and Protoceratops hellenikorhinus.
Quick Fact sheet
|Name Meaning||First Horned Face|
|Geological Time Period||Upper Cretaceous Period (Campanian stage)|
|Size||6 to 8 ft in length; 2.5 to 3 feet height (at the hips)|
|Weight||Around 400 lbs|
|Environment||Arid and dry habitat with diverse fauna and flora|
Protoceratops was a small dinosaur with a bulky barrel-shaped figure. They had a relatively large head compared to its body. It had a parrot-like beak and cheek teeth. It had four pairs of fenestrae on their skull. They had powerful jaw muscles capable of producing hefty bites. They had a delicate and large frill and tiny horns. The frill is mostly made of parietal bone and partly of the squamosal.
Behavior and Adaptation
Fossilized bone beds indicate that they lived in a herd, like other ceratopsians. Sexual dimorphism was quite prominent in Protoceratops. Males were larger than females; and, in fact, the frill size of the males was bigger than females. It has been suggested that the frills were used in attracting mates. Earlier, it was believed that they were nocturnal creatures, but recent studies suggested that they led a cathemeral lifestyle. Since they had short legs; they could not move at a fast speed. However no fossilized footprints have been found to support this hypothesis.
The genus name Protoceratops has come from Greek words “proto” meaning ‘first’, “ceras” meaning ‘ops’ and “ops” meaning ‘face.’
In 1922, a fossil-hunting expedition to Mongolia, led by paleontologist Roy Chapman Andrews, found the first known fossilized dinosaur eggs. Each egg was around 8 inches long suggesting that juveniles could have been 10 to 12 inches in length. They were described as belonging to this genus. Later, it turned out to be Oviraptor eggs. In 1971, a fossilized specimen of a Velociraptor attacking a similar size Protoceratops was found in Mongolia. It is believed they were buried alive by a sudden sandstorm. In 2011, a nest of fifteen juvenile Protoceratops andrewsi was unearthed in Mongolia.
- Andrews led team in the 1922 expedition not just found Protoceratops remains, but also found remains of Oviraptor, Velociraptor and Psittacosaurus.
- Mythical beast Griffin, described as a lion-sized quadruped with raptor-like beak and huge claws, is believed to have depicted from this genus. Greek writers ‘created’ this mythical creature in 675 B.C., the time when they came in contact with the Scythian nomads who mined gold Central Asia; and found the skeletons of beaked dinosaurs like Protoceratops.