The Torosaurus was a genus of horned, hefty, and herbivorous dinosaurs that lived in parts of North America during the Late Cretaceous period. Known for their enormous head, this four-legged creature is disputed to be actually just an adult Triceratops.
|Geological Period||Cretaceous period (late Maastrichtian stage), about 70-65 million years ago|
|Size||21-25 ft (6.2-7.6 m) in length|
|Height||7 ft (2 m) tall at the hips|
|Weight||Around 4 tons|
|Location/Distribution & Habitat||Along the coastline of North America in the US and Canada|
|Birth Type (Reproduction)||Oviparous|
|Maximum Speed||20 mph|
History and Discovery
The term Torosaurus is believed to have been derived from a Latin word ‘taurus’, or else, from the Spanish word ‘toro’, both of which translate to “bull lizard”. However, it is much more likely that the term was coined from the Greek verb ‘toreo’, meaning “to pierce” or, “to perforate”, indicating the fenestrae or the ‘window-like’ holes in the frills of the monstrous creature just to differentiate it from the other solid-frilled Triceratops. Either way, the etymology of the name was not clearly mentioned by Marsh in his papers, resulting in confusion about the meaning of its name.
Skeletons of the Torosaurus have been unearthed in different places of the continent of North America, giving a rough idea about how it looked like. In the United States, fossilized remains of the creature were found in places like South Dakota, New Mexico, Texas, Wyoming, Utah, Montana, and Colorado, as also in Canada’s Saskatchewan.
In 1891, two years after the Triceratops was named, skulls of two ceratopsians were also discovered by paleontologist John Bell Hatcher from southeastern Wyoming, Niobrara County. The remains had elongated frills with holes. It was Prof. Othniel Charles Marsh, the employer of Hatcher, who coined the genus Torosaurus.
Existing Dispute Regarding Classification
At present, there has been some debate about whether the Torosaurus was a genus by itself, or whether it is only a full grown Triceratops. This confusion was a result of a 2009 theory proposed by paleontologists Jack Horner and John Scannella who asserted that this dinosaur was nothing but a mature form of the Triceratops. Since then, the scientists have been uncertain over whether this is actually authentic information, or whether the scientist-duo were mistaken.
Either way, again, the debate is likely to continue until there are conclusive evidence regarding the same. Interestingly, if it is later proven that this dinosaur was only a matured form of the Triceratops, then its name would cease to exist because the herbivorous genus of Triceratop was discovered first, and hence, would continue to retain their name.
Till now, two Torosaurus species have been identified, viz., Torosaurus latus (type species), and Torosaurus utahensis. However, yet another species was subsequently considered to be identical to the type species, viz. Torosaurus gladius.
The creature was approximately 25 feet long, with a height of about 8 feet at the hips. They weighed around 8 tons with a large, heavy body like the triceratops.
The most distinct characteristic feature of the animal is its enormous horned skull, which was 8 feet in length. Also, it had a huge, bony neck frill, a toothless beak, and three horns, with two long eyebrow horns and a short horn on the snout.
Very little is known about the behavior of these creatures. The Torosaurus may have lived in herds, and in four limbs. However, they might also have had a tendency to stand on two legs.
They were herbivores and may have eaten cycads, ginkgos, conifers, and flowering plants.
- The skull (head) of the Torosaurus is the largest of any land animal that ever lived.
- Unlike most other dinosaurs, the Torosaurus were able to chew well with its cheek teeth.
- A group of Torosaurus appeared in the popular six-part BBC UK television series ‘Walking with Dinosaurs’.
- A huge, life-size statue of the Torosaurus is on display at the Peabody Museum of Natural History at the Yale University premises in Connecticut, USA.