Arrhinoceratops: Unveiling the Mystery of the Hornless Face from the Late Cretaceous

Arrhinoceratops, intriguingly means “No Nose-horn Face.” It was discovered in the rugged terrains of Alberta, Canada. Arrhinoceratops, with its distinctive lack of a nasal horn—a feature atypical for a member of the ceratopsid family—challenges our perceptions of dinosaurian physiognomy and behavior.

This herbivorous behemoth roamed the ancient landscapes approximately 83.5 to 66.0 million years ago, sharing the earth with a myriad of other fascinating creatures. Its discovery has enriched our understanding of ceratopsian diversity. Moreover it invites further inquiry into the evolutionary adaptations that shaped the survival of these ancient beings.

Arrhinoceratops Key Facts

Meaning of nameNo Nose-horn Face
Type SpeciesArrhinoceratops brachyops
When it Lived71.5 to 70.6 MYA
PeriodLate Cretaceous
EpochEarly/Lower Maastrichtian
Length15 to 20 feet
Height7.0 feet
Weight1.3 tons
MobilityMoved on all four
First Discovery1923 by an expedition team of the University of Toronto
Described by1925 by William Arthur Parks
HolotypeROM 796
Location of first findAlberta, Canada

Arrhinoceratops Origins, Taxonomy and Timeline

The etymology of Arrhinoceratops, derived from the ancient Greek words for “no,” “nose,” “horn,” and “face,” aptly describes this unique dinosaur’s most distinguishing feature: the absence of the nasal horn that characterizes its ceratopsian relatives. This nomenclature not only highlights its distinct physical attributes but also underscores the importance of naming in understanding ancient life.

Belonging to the Ceratopsia, this dinosaur is a part of the broader ceratopsid Chasmosaurinae, known for their frilled and horned faces. The type species, Arrhinoceratops brachyops, stands out within this family due to its unique (lack of) cranial features. While it shares many characteristics with its ceratopsian cousins, the lack of a nasal horn sets it apart, offering clues to the diverse evolutionary paths within this group.

Mallon et al., 2015 estimate the timeline of Arrhinoceratops between 71.5 to 70.6 million years ago, during the Maastrichtian of the Lower Cretaceous Period.

Discovery & Fossil Evidence

Arrhinoceratops Brachyops (head) fossil at ROM
Staka, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The first glimpse of Arrhinoceratops was unearthed in 1923 by a team from the University of Toronto, led by William Arthur Parks in Alberta, Canada. Parks’ subsequent description of the dinosaur in 1925 laid the groundwork for future research and exploration into its existence.

The holotype, ROM 796, represents a pivotal piece of the puzzle in understanding Arrhinoceratops. This specimen, along with others found in the same region, provides a window into the dinosaur’s physical characteristics and the environment it inhabited. The degree of preservation and the types of fossils found have allowed scientists to reconstruct aspects of its appearance and lifestyle with a reasonable degree of accuracy.

Size and Description of Arrhinoceratops

Arrhinoceratops presents a fascinating study in ceratopsian anatomy, primarily known through its distinctive skull. This dinosaur’s skull features a broad, square neck frill adorned with two oval-shaped openings, deeply veined by arterial grooves on both its top and underside, suggesting a rich blood supply possibly for thermoregulation or display. The frill’s edges, lightly scalloped and decorated with about nine osteoderms, add to its striking appearance. Notably, the left squamosal part of the frill exhibits a pathological opening, hinting at a possible injury or disease.

The brow horns of Arrhinoceratops were moderately long, providing a formidable look, yet its nose horn was shorter and blunter compared to its ceratopsid cousins, indicating variation in horn use and social behavior. The snout’s short and high structure suggests a powerful biting mechanism, suited for its herbivorous diet. The body of Arrhinoceratops, while not fully known, is assumed to align with the typical robust, four-legged form of Ceratopsidae, designed for a life spent grazing in the lush landscapes of the Late Cretaceous.

Size and Weight of Type Species

Size of Anchiceratops, with the frill based on the holotype.
Slate Weasel, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Estimating the size and weight of Arrhinoceratops has been a subject of some debate, primarily due to the limited fossil evidence available. The dinosaur is known almost exclusively from its skull, which has allowed scientists to make educated guesses about its overall dimensions. Popular science literature often cites a body length of approximately 20.0 feet for a fully grown individual, a size that places it squarely within the range of large ceratopsians. However, in a more detailed analysis, paleontologist Gregory S. Paul provided a slightly more conservative estimate in 2010, suggesting a length of about 15.0 feet and a weight of roughly 1.3 tons. These estimates highlight the challenges in accurately determining the size of extinct creatures but also reflect the scientific community’s commitment to refining our understanding based on available data.

The variation in size estimates underscores the complexity of reconstructing extinct animals’ lives. While the skull provides significant insights into Arrhinoceratops’s appearance and possible behaviors, the lack of complete skeletal remains leaves room for interpretation. Nevertheless, these estimates offer a glimpse into the stature of this remarkable dinosaur, suggesting it was a formidable presence in its ancient ecosystem. The combination of its unique skull features and estimated body size paints a picture of a dinosaur well-adapted to its environment, capable of defending itself while foraging for the plant life that sustained it through the Late Cretaceous Period.

Contemporary Dinosaurs

Among its neighbors was Leptoceratops, a smaller cousin, less imposing but equally adapted to the herbivorous lifestyle they shared. While Arrhinoceratops might have used its larger size to claim the choicest ferns and shrubs, both dinosaurs could have found a way to coexist, perhaps grazing in different areas or at different times to minimize competition. Their interactions, though speculative, paint a picture of a dynamic ecosystem where size and strategy determined access to resources.

Then there was Anatosaurus, roughly the same size as Arrhinoceratops but built for a different kind of life. With its duck-billed snout, Anatosaurus was likely more at home in wetter environments, browsing on plants that grew along riverbanks and in marshy areas. This differentiation in habitat preference might have reduced direct competition for food, but it’s easy to imagine a scene where Arrhinoceratops ventured into these lush areas, leading to tense moments as they navigated the overlapping fringes of their territories. The occasional forays into each other’s dining areas could have sparked brief but intense interactions, highlighting the complex relationships within their shared world.

Predation added another layer to Arrhinoceratops’ existence, with Tyrannosaurus rex prowling the edges of the forests but seeing Arrhinoceratops as a challenging yet desirable prey. Meanwhile, the armored Ankylosaurus, with its heavy club tail, represented a different kind of contemporary. While not a direct competitor for food, its presence in the ecosystem was a constant reminder of the diversity of survival strategies. Encounters between Arrhinoceratops and Ankylosaurus were likely more about mutual acknowledgment than conflict, each recognizing the other’s formidable defenses. In this ancient world, the interactions among these giants were governed by an unspoken understanding of strength, strategy, and the relentless pursuit of survival.

Interesting Points about Arrhinoceratops

Arrhinoceratops in its Natural Habitat

The Late Cretaceous Period, the era that Arrhinoceratops called home, was a time of significant geological and climatic changes. This dinosaur inhabited a world where lush vegetation provided ample food for herbivores, and the landscape was shaped by the forces of nature and the myriad species that populated it. The climate, likely varied, ranging from warm and humid conditions to cooler, dryer environments, influenced the distribution of plant and animal life, creating a dynamic ecosystem in which Arrhinoceratops thrived.

Arrhinoceratops, pencil drawing
No machine-readable author provided. Arthur Weasley~commonswiki assumed (based on copyright claims)., CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

As a herbivore, this dinosaur’s diet consisted primarily of the plants that flourished in its habitat. Its beak and teeth were well-suited to processing a variety of vegetation, indicating a flexible diet that could adapt to the changing availability of food sources. The social behavior of Arrhinoceratops, whether it roamed in herds or led a more solitary existence, remains a topic of speculation. However, the structure of its habitat and the nature of its food sources suggest that social interactions, whether for feeding, defense, or mating, played a role in its survival.

The impact of Arrhinoceratops on its environment, and vice versa, is a fascinating aspect of its existence. Its role as a large herbivore would have influenced the vegetation patterns of its habitat, potentially shaping the landscape in ways that supported the diverse ecosystems of the Late Cretaceous. The interplay between this dinosaur and its environment exemplifies the complex web of life that has always characterized our planet.

Frequently Asked Questions

What does the name of this dinosaur mean?

The name Arrhinoceratops translates to “No Nose-horn Face,” reflecting its distinctive lack of a nasal horn.

When did it live?

This dinosaur roamed the earth during the Late Cretaceous Period, approximately 71.5 to 70.6 million years ago.

What did it eat?

As a herbivore, it primarily fed on the plants available in its Late Cretaceous environment.

How did it move?

It moved on all four legs, supporting a large body well-suited for a herbivorous lifestyle.

What makes it unique among dinosaurs?

Its lack of a nasal horn, a rare trait among ceratopsians, sets it apart and offers insights into the diversity of dinosaur adaptations.


The information in this article is based on various sources, drawing on scientific research, fossil evidence, and expert analysis. The aim is to provide a comprehensive and accurate overview of Arrhinoceratops.

Article last fact checked: Joey Arboleda, 02-14-2024

Featured Image Credit: Nobu Tamura, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

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