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Triceratops (extinct)
Scientific classification
Kingdom Information
Domain Eukaryota
Kingdom Animalia
Subkingdom Bilateria
Branch Deuterostomia
Phylum Information
Phylum Chordata
Sub-phylum Vertebrata
Infraphylum Gnathostomata
Class Information
Superclass Tetrapoda
Class Reptilia
Sub-class Diapsida
Infra-class Archosauromorpha
Order Information
Superorder Dinosauria
Order Ornithischia
Sub-order Cerapoda
Infraorder Ceratopsia
Family Information
Family Ceratopsidae
Sub-family Ceratopsinae
Genus Information
Genus Triceratops
Species Information
Species T. horridus
T. prorsus
Population statistics

Triceratops (Greek: τρι-κέρας-ωψ; "three-horned face"[1]) were two species of a large ceratopsian (horned) dinosaur, known from fossilized remains found in North America .


Triceratops was large, up to 26 feet long, with an estimated weight up to 6 tons. The forelimbs were shorter than the hindlimbs, yet current measurements indicate Triceratops was able to trot and charge much like a modern rhinoceros despite its bulk. The skull was nearly a third of the entire animal's length, and bore three horns - one over each eye and a smaller one on its snout. A frill of solid bone extended from the back of the skull over the animal's neck, giving some protection for that area from predators, as well as serving as an anchor for powerful neck muscles.

The mouth was beaked at the fore, leading scientists to speculate that it fed by "nipping" vegetation rather than grazing; the food was then ground down by a battery of simple, yet effective, cheek teeth. They were assumed to have been browsers of low-lying plants, and judging from fossilized tracks they roamed in small herds.

Evolutionary claims

Paleontologists once believed there were several species of Triceratops, judging from the large number of fossil remains, but it is now thought that there were just two, T. horridus and the larger T. prorsus; the remaining eight animals considered as subspecies or dubious due to being incomplete. According to evolution, they are descended from Psittacosaurus, a small bipedal ornithopod whose remains were found in central Asia, and from there the ceratopsian line migrated to North America. Triceratops has been considered the last of the line, existing just before the end of the Cretaceous period.[2]

There has been a recent claim that Triceratops may not have existed at all. According to the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology[3][4], Triceratops may have been an animal known as Torosaurus, but at a much younger growth stage. Scientists theorize that Triceratops - like all reptiles - continued to grow with age; this growth included changes to the frill which - according to the theory - changed from the deeply-curved solid bone of Tricertops into the "straight-backed" frill of Torosaurus, a change of which also involved a loss of bone (the fenestræ, or "windows" in the frill) as a result. According to Dr. Jack Horner, this process involved "metaplastic" bone which caused a change in the shape of the skull as the animal aged, i.e the backward pointing horns of a baby Triceratops turning into the forward pointing horns of an adult.[5]

Creationists hold that Triceratops, along with other dinosaurs, were created during the sixth day of creation week, and did not survive the post-flood world. In support of the great flood catastrophe, all known Triceratops fossils - including their trackways - were found in sedimentary (water-laid) rock.

Triceratops is the official state dinosaur of Wyoming.[6]


  1. Liddell, H.G., and R. Scott. Greek-English Lexicon, Abridged Edition. Oxford University Press, Oxford, United Kingdom, 1980
  2. The Complete Book of Dinosaurs, by Dougal Dixon, Anness Publishing, 2006