What did they look like?
The body of the Triceratops was big and round, planted on top of short sturdy legs. It was 8 meters long, about 3 meters tall and weighed somewhere between 6 and 12 tons (the size of an elephant).
Triceratops means "Three Horned Face" in Greek. It is called that because it has three horns – two above its eyes and one on its nose. Triceratops horns could be up to 40 inches long. It had a big frill that extended up above the head.
The horns were used for defense, against such enemies as the Tyrannosaurus. When threatened, the Triceratops would stand and fight. Its sharp horns would act as spears and cause a lot of damage. It also had a powerful bite.
Scientists do not all agree on what its head frill was used for. Some say it could have been a defense – like a shield, to protect its body. Some say it was used to give a warning to members of the herd by changing colour.
What did they eat?
Triceratops was a herbivore and ate bushes and plants that were close to the ground. We know this because it had flat teeth that are good for chopping up vegetation and its head was massive and would have been difficult to lift high in the air. A triceratops' teeth act like scissors, and it would have been able to shred even very tough leaves and woody branches and roots. Animals that eat woody foods have to be big. They need to process the food very slowly and have a long digestive tract. An elephant can digest a tree branch but a human cannot. Triceratops was a very big animal, so it could have eaten food that took a long time to digest.
Unlike any animal today, a Triceratops had a beak in front of its mouth and teeth in back. The beak would have a hard covering like a parrot beak. Some scientists think that Triceratops ate cycads which are a type of plant that was common in the Cretaceous. These plants look like a small palm tree with a crown of sharp, spiky leaves. A Triceratops could have used its strong beak to strip off the leaves before eating the trunk. Other scientists argue that these plants are very poisonous so it is unlikely that any dinosaur ate them.
When did they live?
Triceratops lived in the late Cretaceous period, around 70 to 65 million years ago. The climate was warm and dry and there were numerous volcanoes.
Where did they live?
Triceratops lived in the North American continent. Remains have been found in the United States (USA) states of Colorado, Montana, North and South Dakota, and Wyoming, and in the Canadian provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan. There is evidence that they were a herding animal. They lived in groups like buffalo or bison.
How were they discovered?
The first Triceratops was discovered in 1887, in Colorado, USA. Since then many of their fossils have been found with Tyrannosaurus tooth marks!
What do we need to learn?
- What their head frill was used for. - Some people believed that the Triceratops babies were hunted by smaller meat eaters and the adult used their frills to protect their young.
- If they were really hunted by T.Rex.