Paleontologists now think they know how the predatory Tyrannosaur ate the well-protected Triceratops: by ripping its head off. The carnivore may have forcefully yanked on the bony frills around the neck of its horned prey in order to get to the rich meat beneath. The researchers, who reported their findings at the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology’s annual meeting last week, suggested this scenario after examining Triceratops skulls, where they found puncture and pull marks on the neck frills—along with bite marks on the head-neck joint that could only have been made on a severed head.
For a fuller explanation, replete with step-by-step illustrations, visit Nature News.
Drawing courtesy of Nate Carroll via Nature
Titanoceratops—it’s a fittingly majestic name for a monster dinosaur. That’s the moniker paleontologist Nicholas Longrich has bestowed on his new find, and he claims his 74-million-year-old discovery is the common ancestor of the famous Triceratops and its cousin in the triceratopsin family, the Torosaurus.
The species weighed in at around 6,800 kilograms [15,000 pounds] and had an enormous 8-foot skull — rivaling Triceratops for size. It is very similar to Triceratops, but with a thinner frill, longer nose and slightly bigger horns. Titanoceratops lived in the American Southwest during the Cretaceous period, about 74 million years ago, and is the earliest known triceratopsin. [Wired]
Actually, Titanoceratops is not a “new” discovery—but the fossil was mistakenly classified for years, Longrich says. The partial skeleton was turned up in 1941 in New Mexico, and left alone until 1995. At that point scientists dug it up and erected the skeleton in the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History as a dinosaur called Pentaceratops sternbergi (in the right side of the image, the shaded parts represent missing pieces that were filled into to model the skull as Pentaceratops). The Pentaceratops lived about 73 to 75 million years ago, but it was much smaller overall than a triceratopsin.