What is a dinosaur?
Dinosaurs were one of many kinds of reptiles that lived during the Mesozoic Era – a period often called the Age of Reptiles.
During the Age of Reptiles, most animals alive on earth belonged to a huge group called the Archosaurs. Archosaur means ‘ruling reptile’ – for obvious reasons. They have shared features like a special hole in their skull. Paleontologists use these features to identify different animals from fossils. Dinosaurs were just one group of archosaurs.
For as long as 160 million years in some regions, dinosaurs dominated the land. They adapted to every kind of habitat and were incredibly successful. Some dinosaurs were the size of small birds, and others were longer than three houses stacked on top of one another!
One of the reasons for their success was their straight, upright back legs. This saved them lots of energy, supported their weight better, and enabled them to move more quickly over different terrain.
Are dinosaurs alive today?
Look out of your window, or listen when you’re beside a hedge or by a tree. You may hear and see dinosaurs.
Yes, birds today are the living descendants of a group of dinosaurs!
The ancestor of birds survived the mass extinction event, which killed many dinosaurs and other animals on earth at the end of the Cretaceous period.
Modern birds and dinosaurs share some features – such as having a wishbone, brooding eggs, and, scientists increasingly believe, possessing feathers.
When did Triceratops live on Earth?
Dinosaurs like triceratops lived hundreds of millions of years ago during the Mesozoic era.
The Mesozoic era lasted 180 million years. It began roughly 250 million years ago and ended 65 million years ago (the time of the mass extinction event, which ended the Age of the Reptiles). During this era were three periods you’re probably familiar with:
- The Triassic Period;
- The Jurassic Period;
- The Cretaceous Period.
Each period spanned millions of years and was characterized by unique climatic conditions and kinds of life living on the planet.
Triceratops lived 68 – 66 million years ago, during the late Cretaceous period.
Where did triceratops live?
Paleontologists (fossil researchers) have eventually discovered that triceratops lived in North America. Scientists use stone deposits around fossils to determine the most likely climate and environment in a given period and location. The fossils come from the Evanston Formation, Scollard Formation, Laramie Formation, Lance Formation, Denver Formation, and Hell Creek Formation. Scientists have discovered specimens in Colorado, Montana, Wyoming, South Dakota, and a few provinces in Canada.
Specifically, triceratops dinosaurs likely lived in dry, forested areas and plains where vegetation was plentiful. Ferns, cycads, and palms were probably abundant in these habitats.
What habitat did the Triceratops live in?
We know that Triceratops lived on Earth, but the Earth that these creatures would have known was drastically different from our own, with a different climate and environment. Researchers have used fossils and stone deposits to determine that these particular dinosaurs preferred dry forested areas that would have been home to many types of vegetation to feast upon, including ferns, cycads, and palms.
How did triceratops live?
The Late Cretaceous period was a tough world to live in for a herbivore.
Like many herbivores we know today, triceratops would graze plants like large palms in herds. Being part of a herd is great for social cohesion – it also provides a defensive strategy against potential predators.
What’s more, triceratops had two long brow horns, which could grow to be at least 1 meter long – at least, that’s what we know from fossil evidence. So these horns could have been even longer! Triceratops also had a third, shorter horn at the end of their nose.
And, there’s more – fossil evidence of bony frills and growths extending along triceratops’ necks, making it even more difficult for big carnivores to catch them by the neck.
What did Triceratops eat?
Fossils have allowed scientists to research and analyze dinosaurs’ teeth and estimate their preferred snacks and diets. With flattened teeth, we know that they were herbivores that fed on low vegetation because their heads were rather low on their body. They may have eaten a variety of palms, ferns, cycads, and other plants available then.
Who discovered triceratops?
It took a few discoveries of parts of the triceratops to determine what this animal could be.
First, a pair of brow horns attached to a skull roof was found by George Lyman Cannon close to Denver, Colorado, in the spring of 1887. Then, John Bell Hatcher discovered a whole skull at the Lance Formation, Wyoming, in 1888.
Since then, triceratops has been found in the states of Montana and South Dakota, as well as Saskatchewan and Alberta in Canada.
Triceratops has a large, sturdy bone structure, meaning many examples have been preserved well in fossils over long periods. This has meant scientists have learned a lot about triceratops and have even been able to compare different individuals!