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Triceratops is a genus of extinct ceratopsid dinosaur that lived around 68 to 66 million years ago. It is believed that they went extinct during the Cretaceous–Paleogene extinction event. It was the last known non-avian dinosaur genera.


Scientific classification

Kingdom Animalia
Phylum Chordata
Clade Dinosauria
Order Ornithischia
Clade Marginocephalia
Family Ceratopsidae
Subfamily Chasmosaurinae
Tribe Triceratopsini
Genus Triceratops
Species Triceratops horridus (type species)
Triceratops prorsus

Quick Fact Sheet

Name Meaning Three-horned face
Pronunciation tri-SERa-tops
Geological Time Period Maastrichtian stage, Late Cretaceous era
Size Length –26 to 29.5 ft (7.9 to 9.0 meters)
Height – 9 to 9.8 ft (2.9 to 3.0 meters)
Weight 13000 to 26000 lbs (6.1 to 12.0 tonnes)
Range/Location North America
Diet Herbivore
Habitat/Environment Forest Plains
Locomotion Quadruped

Physical Description

The appearance of Triceratops was like the modern-day rhino to a large extent. It had a sturdy, well-built body along with a huge skull that was around 10 ft long. It possessed a bony frill at the back of its head, but unlike most other ceratopsids it did not have any fenestrae.

It had a parrot-like beak. Their teeth structure was more complex than other reptilian teeth. The most distinctive feature was their horns on its face. It possessed a single short horn above on the snout and two horns (each around 3.3. ft long) above each eye.

Triceratops’ skin was not similar compared to other dinosaur species. Skin impressions from an undescribed sample suggest that some species could have carried bristle-like structures. The had strong forelimbs and rear limbs.

Discovery and species

The first remains – a skull plate and two horns – were unearthed in 1887 near Denver, Colorado. The discovered details were sent to American paleontologist Othniel Charles Marsh for study. He suggested that it was some type of large prehistoric bison and named it Bison alticornis. Around a year later, a more complete skull was found by John Bell Hatcher. After studying the new specimen, Marsh realized that they were of some horned dinosaur and called it Triceratops. Later, several Triceratops remains have been found in Montana and South Dakota, in United States; and in Saskatchewan and Alberta, in Canada. In 1997, a baby Triceratops’ skull, along with bony tendons and a few vertebrae was recovered from the Hell Creek Formation in Montana by amateur fossil hunter Harley Garbani.

The exact placement of this genus has been a matter of controversy among paleontologists. T. horridus and T. prorsus are considered valid, but several other skeleton remains have been assigned to this species. A report, in 2010, suggested that Torosaurus, which is considered as a separate genus, is actually a mature form of Triceratops. It led many people to believe that the portrayed existence of this genus is not real. However, the controversial suggestion was immediately met with a challenge from several corners.


The term Triceratops comes from Greek words “tri” meaning ‘three,’ “kéras” meaning ‘horn’ and “ops” meaning ‘face.’

Behavior and Adaptation

It is believed that, like the other Ceratopsians, they lived in herd. And, this hypothesis is triggered by Triceratops’ bonebeds. They shared their habitat with other dinosaur species like T-rex, Ankylosaurus, Corythosaurus and Dryptosaurus. It is believed that they were probably preyed upon by Tyrannosaurus.

The function of the facial horns and frills has been a matter of debate among paleontologists. At first, they were portrayed as defensive weapons against its enemies. Recent theories suggest that they were used for courtship displays, sexual rituals, identification and dominance showings. It is believed that they laid eggs in small clutches.

Fun Facts

Triceratops have been depicted in movies, documentary films (such as BBC television documentary Walking with Dinosaurs, Jurassic Park movie etc.), toy-lines (like Kota the triceratops and LEGO Triceratops, Papo Triceratops and Snarl the Triceratops Dinobot) and several computer games.

Triceratops is the official state dinosaur of Wyoming.

A 1942 mural, at the Field Museum of Natural History for the National Geographic Society, by Charles R. Knight depicted a confrontation between Triceratops and Tyrannosaurus,

Published on October 13th 2015 by under Reptiles.
Article was last reviewed on 16th September 2019.

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