Triceratops טריצרטופס

Triceratops is a genus of horned dinosaur (family: Ceratopsidae) that lived in North America during the Late Cretaceous, about 68–66 million years ago. Its name means "three-horned face" derived from ancient Greek: τρί- (tri-) meaning "three", κέρας (kéras) meaning "horn", and ὤψ (ops) meaning "face".

Triceratops was armed with three sharp horns and a solid bony frill which could serve as a shield to its neck. The brow horn cores measured 90-115 cm long and may have been longer when covered with keratin sheath while it was alive. They were sharp, strong and robust, perfectly suited for combat. Combined with its bulk, this bulldozer, built for a frontal attack, could stand up to the power of T-rex and defend itself successfully in combat. There is even a documentation in fossils record for a Triceratops surviving an attack by a Tyrannosaurus rex . Although an herbivore and usually peaceful, when Triceratops was disturbed or provoked it was a very dangerous animal, capable of both impaling and trampling whatever stood in its path.

Triceratops was one of the largest Ceratopsians, measuring 8–9 meters long and weighing about 6,000–12,000 kg. It stood up to a height of 3 meters. It was as big as a bull African elephant. It was a quadruped herbivore with a very efficient digestive system which included a dental battery and a sharp horny beak that could handle even the toughest vegetation. There were probably two species of Triceratops: T. horridus and T. prorsus. They are known mainly from the Maastrichtian layers of the Lance Formation and Hell Creek Formation in the northwest United States, but were also discovered in other places such as Alberta, Canada. Had they have not been confined by oceans and the Western Interior Seaway they would probably expand even further.

Triceratops was one of the most successful dinosaurs of its time (and the most common in its habitat) and the last to stand before the K-Pg extinction wiped out all dinosaurs (excluding the avelians, a.k.a birds). Today it is one of the most famous, popular and well-known dinosaurs, rivaled only by the fearsome Tyrannosaurus and the huge Apatosaurus. It was named and described by Prof. Othniel Charles Marsh, with the help of fossils hunter John Bell Hatcher.

Triceratops is my favorite dinosaur, and this why I have created this webpage. An emphasis was made on reliable and scientifically accurate information, but as paleontological research advance, our body of knowledge and general view of dinosaurs, and in particular, Triceratops, may change rapidly.

טריצרטופס הוא סוג של דינוזאור במשפחת הצרטופסיים שחי באמריקה הצפונית בקרטיקון העליון, כ-68-66 מיליון שנה לפני זמננו. פירוש שמו הוא "פרצוף בעל שלוש קרניים" ומקורו ביוונית עתיקה: טרי = שלוש, קראט/צראט = קרן, אופס = פנים, פרצוף.

הטריצרטופס היה חמוש בשלוש קרניים חדות והיה בעל עטרה מוצקה מעצם עבה שבלטה מהעורף והגנה על הצוואר. ליבות העצם של הקרניים שמעל העיניים היו באורך 90–115 ס"מ, וכאשר היו מכוסות בקרן בעת שהייצור היה בחיים, הן היו אף ארוכות יותר (ייתכן שאף באורך 130–150 ס"מ). הקרניים היו חדות, חזקות וחסונות, והיוו כלי נשק מצוין בקרב. בשילוב המסיביות שלו, בולדוזר זה, שהיה בנוי לקרב חזיתי, יכל לעמוד בפני עוצמתו של הטי-רקס ולהגן על עצמו בהצלחה בקרב. יש עדויות במאובנים לכך שטריצרטופס שרד התקפה של טירנוזאורוס רקס והחלים מפצעיו. למרות שלרוב היה שליו ורגוע, כבעל חיים אוכל צמחים, כאשר הופרע או הותקף הוא היה בעל חיים מסוכן, עם יכולת לרמוס ולשפד כל מה שעמד בדרכו.

הטריצרטופס היה אחד הצרטופסים הגדולים ביותר. אורכו המירבי נע בין 8 ל-9 מטר, ומסתו בין 6,000 ל-12,000 ק"ג (6–12 טון). גובהו היה כ-3 מטרים. הוא היה גדול כפיל סוואנה אפריקני. הטריצרטופס הלך על ארבע רגליים והיה אוכל צמחים. מערכת העיכול שלו הייתה יעילה מאוד וכללה סוללות שיניים מפותחות ומקור חד שאפשר לו לחתוך ולעכל אפילו את הצמחייה הקשה ביותר. ככל הנראה היו שני מינים טקסונומיים של טריצרטופס: טריצרטופס הורידוס וטריצרטופס פרורסוס. מאובני טריצרטופס נמצאו בשכבת הגיל הגאולוגית של המאסטריכט, בעיקר בתצורת לאנס ובתצורת הל קריק בצפון-מערב ארצות הברית, אך גם באלברטה, קנדה. לולא היו מוגבלים בידי אוקיינוסים והים הפנימי המערבי, הם כנראה היו מתפשטים לאזורים נוספים.

הטריצרטופס היה אחד הדינוזאורים המצליחים ביותר של זמנו (ונפוץ ביותר באזור מחייתו), וחי עד להכחדת קרטיקון-פלאוגן שבה הוכחדו כל הדינוזאורים, למעט העופות. כיום הוא אחד הדינוזאורים הידועים והאהובים ביותר, שני אולי רק לטירנוזאורוס והאפטוזאורוס הענק. הוא נתגלה, תואר והוגדר מדעית על ידי הפרופסור עותניאל צ'ארלס מארש, בעזרת צייד המאובנים ג'ון בל האטצ'ר.

הטריצרטופס הוא הדינוזאור האהוב עליי, ודף זה מרכז מידע עליו, כולל מאמרים, תמונות ומולטימדיה. הושם דגש על תוכן מהימן ומדויק מדעית, אך מאחר שהמחקר מתקדם מהר, תמונת הידע שיש לנו על דינוזאורים בכלל וטריצרטופס בפרט, משתנה מהר.

Triceratops statue by Sideshow Collectibles. Photo by Hung Nguyen. Photoshop by Dr. Zachi Evenor (source)

Triceratops – Overview

Triceratops ID Card - Information Table:

Sources for the table:

Triceratops skeletal anatomy

Read more about Triceratops:


My Theory about Triceratops

Theory about the use of horns and frill for defense in Triceratops as a reason for its success

This is a note about Triceratops (see Wikipedia), my favorite dinosaur and an amazing impressive successful creature. Triceratops was a Ceratopsid, a big quadrupedal herbivore equipped with long strong horns and a solid bony frill, a sharp beak and efficient digestive system. Triceratops was 8-9 meters long and weighed about 6 to 8.5 tonnes (6,000-8,500 kg). Some scientists estimated that large individuals could weigh even 10 or 12 tonnes. It had an enormous skull: up to 2.5 meters long, and very heavy and robust. Triceratops probably had the most impressive headgear of all land vertebrates, suited for its style of life.

When first discovered by O. C. Marsh in 1887, 1888 and 1889, the horns and frills of the Ceratopsids were the most prominent feature of these mighty beasts. The first Ceratopsid discovered was Triceratops who had a robust long horns and thick solid bony frill. Initially these structures were interpreted as means of defense against predators, but as more and more genera of Ceratopsids were discovered, each with its own unique ornamentation of horns, spikes, knobs and frill, and many of them useless for defense (such as the curved nose horn of Einiosaurus or the very small horns of Chasmosaurus. In particular most had thin frills with large “gaps” or fenestrae in the bones which made them useless as a shield), the interpretation of frills and horns as means of defense was disfavored.

Variety of Ceratopsids and their headgear. Source: Wikipedia (Nobu Tamura).

Top line: Pachyrhinosaurus, Centrosaurus, Albertaceratops. Middle line: Pentaceratops, Anchiceratops, Styracosaurus. Bottom line: Triceratops, Torosaurus, Chasmosaurus.

The variety of shapes of frills and horns indicate that their primary use was as means of display, probably for intra-specific communication, such as courting and identification. This interpretation substantiated after discovering that the unique shapes of horns and frills developed only when the animal reached sexual maturity, hinting that these structures used for courtship displays and fighting over mates or territory. Today this is the accepted theory about the use of horns and frills in Ceratopsids. As a side note, one can say that horns had their sex appeal among Ceratopsids, also because they made their bearers horny. However, the horns and frill possibly had other uses as well, such as thermoregulation or anchoring the jaws’ muscles.

However, the horns and frills of Triceratops were very strong and robust. The frill was solid without any fenestra, and if was covered in Keratin as Dr. Bob Bakker suggested, it was a formidable shield that could withstand injuries from other horns (Triceratops bulls did fought each other on mates and territory) and even the powerful bite of Tyrannosaurus rex. Its horns were very long (the longest horn documented as I know was 115 cm long, “Yoshi’s Trike” MOR 3027, thanks to Dr. John Scannella for that figure) and yet strong and robust. Almost certainly covered by Keratin (an hard protein which makes the horns in extant bovids such as cattle and antelopes), they were even stronger and sharp enough to impale any predator or adversary that attacked our Triceratops. There are evidence in fossils that Triceratops did used its horns as a weapon, at least against other Triceratopses. They were probably also useful to fend off Tyrannosaurus and other predators. Prof. Peter Dodson estimated that a bull Triceratops was more than capable to defend itself against Tyrannosaurus rex, and had the upper hand if the two had engaged in frontal combat.

Multi-angle view of Triceratops skull. Triceratops had strong long sharp horns and a thick solid frill. Their attributes make them very suitable to be used as weapons or means of defense.

And now comes my theory. The main use of horns and frill in Ceratopsids was primarily as means of display but in Triceratops they were adapted to be used as weapons and means of defense as well. By being better protected against predators (and also by being able to drive away potential rivals over a good territory or mate, being either another Triceratops or other species of Ceratopsids), Triceratops gained advantage over other Ceratopsids and became the most common dinosaur of the Maastrichtian in Northwest America, while other species of Ceratopsids declined and eventually went extinct. Think about it, if Triceratops was very well protected and dangerous with its sharp horns and solid frill, then a wise predator would rather go hunt a less dangerous meal (i.e. one that cannot kill it), such as less-protected Ceratopsids or Hadrosaurs. Predators are bullies, they go after the easiest prey they can find, and they sure won't want to mess with the most dangerous herbivore around unless they have to. If you get less preyed upon then you have bigger chances to survive and reproduce. This gave Triceratops an edge.

There are more reasons why Triceratops was so successful and certainly the effectiveness of its horns and frills is not the only one, e.g. Triceratops had a very efficient digestive system, but it is a strong reason that one needs to consider as part of the array of effective and useful features of this mighty herbivore.

And if this theory is true, one can still romanticize and imagine the epic battles between a bull Triceratops and an hungry T-rex.

Zachi Evenor, 2016

Information, resources, multimedia and internet hyperlinks


The most up-to-date articles on Wikipedia (English and Hebrew):

More content on Wikipedia and WikiCommons:

Images from WikiCommons:

"Lane", Houston Museum of Natural Sciences, Houston, Texas, United States (source)

"Hatcher", Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, Washington DC, United States (source)

Natural History Museum, London, UK (source)

Natural History Museum, London, UK (source)

Royal Tyrrell Museum, Alberta, Canada (source)

American Museum of Natural History, New York, NY, United States (source)

Senckenberg Museum in Frankfurt am Main, Germany (source)

Canadian Museum of Nature, Canada (source)

Triceratops prorsus, Los Angeles County Natural History Museum, California, USA (source)

Fossilized skin impression of Triceratops, specimen "Lane", Houston Museum of Natural Science, Texas, USA (source)

Science Museum of Minnesota (source)

"Hatcher", Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, Washington DC, United States (source)

Triceratops prorsus, YPM 1822 (source)

Yoshi's Trike, MOR 3027 (source)

Here are pictures of Triceratops on a white background. They are all taken from Wikipedia and thus free to use (as long as the creator is attributed). Source:

The creators of the white background source images are Etemenanki3, PawełMM , Nicholas R. Longrich*, Daniel J. Field, L.E. Spry , Ceasol , sabreguy29 , Allie_Caulfield , EvaK , Scott , Andrew Kerr . Most were edited and put on white background by MathKnight .

Galleries and photos on Flickr:

Photos in Flickr:

This is a Favorite Co. desktop model of Triceratops prorsus. Although the coloring is a bit sloppy, I like this model. It is reasonably accurate and the horns are sharp and impressive. This model can be viewed from many directions (though it is not stable on its left side) and is fun to handle and explore. Overall: recommended. Length ~ 20 cm.

Papo 's Triceratops is one of the finest toy-level figures there are. It is accurate and the details are great, with clean quality finishing. The overall modeling of this Triceratops is based on the Jurassic Park Triceratops. Improve the head and enlarge the brow horns and it will be almost perfect. Overall: highly recommended. Length ~24 cm.

More images, mainly from DeviantArt:

These are embedded links. Click on each image above for its source (at each author's gallery).

Watch videos on YouTube:

Sideshow Collectibles Dinosauria Triceratops statue:

Triceratops by Sideshow Collectibles

Sideshow Collectibles Triceratops CC-BY image (source)

Sideshow Collectibles: Dinosauria - Triceratops. This top quality desktop statue is probably the most accurate and finest figure of Triceratops. The statue is highly detailed, with quality stamped on every feature - from head to tail, from the horns to the frills, from posture to skin texture, including epiossifications and scales. The posture is impressive and showing the power and bulk of this mighty herbivore. The statue can be viewed only from one side and has a main direction of display. It is very big - 11" H (279.4mm) x 12" W (304.8mm) x 20" L (508mm) - and heavy (15.00 lbs = 6.8 kg). Thus, it is not a toy or a model which can be played with, but a work of art, celebrating Triceratops. Overall, I highly recommend it for dinosaurs lovers and especially for those who consider Triceratops as their favorite. Unfortunately, it is now out of stock (it seems that I have purchased the last Triceratops statue).


And just for fun...

Triceratops vs Tyrannosaurus rex - the ultimate battle.

Who will win? Who will die? Who will live?

Trike Truck - The coolest truck ever :-)

The purpose of this page is educational. And to convince you that Triceratops is cool.