Tag: horned dinosaur

Old wounds show that Triceratops used its horns for combat

By Ed Yong | January 27, 2009 8:00 pm

Thanks to its trinity of horns, Triceratops has become of the most recognisable of dinosaurs. The sight of two bulls charging at each other and jousting with their horns must have been an incredible one – geeky palaeontologists might get a small thrill just thinking about it. But did it ever really happen? Did Triceratops ever use its unmistakeable horns in combat, or were they simply for show?

Both theories have been put forward, but Andrew Farke from the Raymond M. Alf Museum of Palaeontology (who blogs at the Open Source Palaeontologist) thinks that both were probably right. By looking at the pattern of injuries on the skulls Triceratops specimens, his team has found evidence that the dinosaur really did use its horns for duelling, and its giant neck frill for protection. Triceratops was effectively a reptilian knight that carried two lances and a shield on top of its enormous head. 

Farke compared the skull of Triceratops with a related but very different ceratopsian (horned dinosaur) called Centrosaurus. While Triceratops had two large horns over its eyes and a short one on its snout, Centrosaurus had the opposite arrangement – its eyebrow-horns were tiny and its nose one was huge.

Farke reasoned that if these animals fought with one another, their horn arrangements would have led to very different fighting styles. And over time, that would mean that the two animals would build up injuries in different hotspots. If, on the other hand, their horns and frills were only used to display to mates and rivals, they ought to have picked up injuries in more or less the same places.

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CATEGORIZED UNDER: Dinosaurs, Palaeontology

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