Triceratops belonged to the Ceratopsia group of dinosaurs that were found in North America and Asia during the Cretaceous Period. Triceratops and Tyrannosaurus were the biggest dinosaurs of the Late Cretaceous period. Interestingly, they shared a predator-prey relationship; the latter was a predator and the former its prey.
Triceratops Dinosaur History
The origins of this genus were not known until recently. According to the research conducted in recent years, Zuniceratops are understood to be the oldest ceratopsians. Another ceratopsian, the Yinlong was described in 2005. It was declared the first ceratopsian dinosaur of the Jurassic period. Until 1990, Protoceratops were considered the only ancestors of Triceratops.
The anatomy of the Triceratops resembled that of the rhinos. They weighed around 26 to 29 tons, and measured 7 to 9 m in length. A large skull and three horns―two of them above the eyes and third one above the nose―were the characteristic features of this genus. Their eyes were widely spaced, which helped them have a broad view of the surroundings. Other than their strong limbs, these quadrupedals were known for their sprawling legs. Their skeletons show 10 vertebrae in the neck, 12 vertebrae in the region between the neck and pelvis, 10 in the sacral region, and 50 in the tail.
Along with parrot-like beaks, Triceratops had teeth which they used for chewing food. Their digestive system made use of bacteria in the process of digestion. Being herbivores, they primarily feasted on palm fronds and cycads.
The fossils of Triceratops were mostly found in sedimentary rocks and in low-lying regions near the coast.
The first skeletal specimen of this genus was discovered in 1887, near Denver, Colorado. Othniel Charles Marsh, who studied the fossil, initially confused it with a bison's fossil. In 1888, with the discovery of a similar fossil in the 'Lance Formation' creek, Mr. Marsh accepted the previously discovered fossil as that of a ceratopsian and named it Triceratops. More fossils were eventually found in South Dakota and Montana in the United States and the Saskatchewan and Alberts provinces of Canada. Till the year 1905, not a single, complete skeleton of Triceratops was discovered. On March 9, 1913, people thronged the Natural History Museum in Paris to see the Triceratops fossil that was found in the Rocky mountains.
It was earlier believed that Triceratops lived a solitary life. However, recent studies show that they lived in groups. The evidence that was found by Stephen Brusatte, a student from the Columbia University, reinforces the fact. Brusatte along with his colleagues, found three Triceratops fossils near the southeastern parts of Montana.
Many skeletons of Triceratops are preserved in paleontology museums the world over. They need to be conserved for future studies and research activities (archeology) pertaining to this wonderful creature of the past.