Profile view of Triceratops horridus
Kingdom Animalia
Phylum Chordata
Superclass Tetrapoda
Class Reptilia
Subclass Diapsida
Superorder Dinosauria
Order Ornithischia
Suborder Ceratopsia
Superfamily Ceratopsoidea
Family Ceratopsidae
Subfamily Chasmosaurinae
Genus Triceratops
1st Species Triceratops horridus
2nd Species Triceratops prorsus
Other attributes
Time Range 68-66 mya
Location United States of America, Canada
Name Meaning Three-horned face
Physical Dimensions 8 meters long for T.horridus; 8.3 meters long for T.prorsus
Weight 7.1 tonnes for T.horridus; 7.8 tonnes for T.prorsus
Dietary Classification Herbivore

Comparison of T.prorsus spcimens with an 1.8 meter tall human. Note that this restoration does not account for ontogeny; the actual skull of USNM 4928 would have looked different in life. Click to expand.

Triceratops is a ceratopsid ceratopsian marginocephalian dinosaur from the Late Cretaceous of the United States of America and Canada. It was officially named in 1889 by Othniel Charles Marsh. It is one of the most famous dinosaurs to exist (only being slightly overshadowed by Brontosaurus and Tyrannosaurus), and when it was first discovered, it was confused for being a strange hoofed mammal named Bison alticornis, right before people discovered that it was a dinosaur.


Triceratops was a quadrupedal dinosaur with a bulky body, 4 erect legs, a moderately short tail held low to the ground, a large head with a beaked mouth, a shield-like, bony frill right on the back of its head, and big horns for defense against predators. Like most ceratopsians (horned dinosaurs), it had 2 giant horns near its bony frill, as well as one small horn on its snout, hence the meaning of its name, "three-horned face". Most of its body (excluding its head) would have been covered in spiky, scaly skin, while its head would have been covered in a simple keratinous covering.


Triceratops would have been an herbivore, feeding on plants low to the ground. Its pointed beak was used to grab pieces of vegetation and pluck them, while the many teeth in the back of its mouth would process the vegetation; as well as this, it would have occasionally gained access to the leaves on taller plants by knocking the plants down with its body.


The use of Triceratops's large frill remains open to debate; the most accepted theory says that it was used for display, while other theories say that it was used for intimidating smaller predators and, in some cases, regulation of body temperature. Its horns, however, had a definitive use; they were used as a weapon against larger predators, as well as rival males during mating season. Triceratops is often shown charging at full speed to brutally impale Tyrannosaurus; however, this is unlikely, as Triceratops itself was too massive to run at exceedingly fast speeds. Instead, it would have flicked its head at its attacker when in close combat, similar to many head-striking artiodactyls. As well as this, people are quick to assume that Triceratops lived in herds, but many remains actually seem to tell us that it was a mostly solitary animal; however, some bonebeds show evidence that it would have migrated in large family units from time to time (a la elephants), and we can assume that when facing against predators like Tyrannosaurus, it would have clustered in large groups in order to drive them off.

In popular cultureEdit

Triceratops was first introduced to the public in the 1925 movie, The Lost World, where it was featured in a long and brutal struggle against a Tyrannosaurus. Since then, it has been featured as a major enemy of the giant theropod, and has appeared in major pieces of media like Fantasia (where it actually ran from danger like every other dinosaur depicted), The Land Before Time, Jurassic Park (where it was not shown fighting a Tyrannosaurus), and Prehistoric Park. In its pop culture appearances, whenever it is not fighting Tyrannosaurus, it is often trying to charge at humans and gore them with its horns.

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