Bagaceratops: A Small-Horned Dino of the Late Cretaceous

Imagine stepping back in time to the Late Cretaceous Period. It’s a world teeming with diverse life forms, and among them is a rather intriguing dinosaur, Bagaceratops. This small-horned creature, whose name literally means “Small-Horned Face,” roamed the lands of what is now Mongolia. Its discovery and subsequent studies have shed light on a fascinating era in Earth’s history.

Despite its relatively diminutive size compared to some of its contemporaries, this dinosaur holds a unique place in the tapestry of prehistoric life. Its characteristics, lifestyle, and the environment it inhabited offer us a window into a world long gone. So, let’s embark on a journey to explore the life and times of this remarkable dinosaur.

Bagaceratops Key Facts

Meaning of nameSmall-Horned Face
Type SpeciesBagaceratops rozhdestvenskyi
When it Lived83.6 to 71.6 MYA
PeriodLate Cretaceous
Length3.3 to 4.9 feet
HeightApproximately 1.5 foot
Weight50.0 to 99.0 lbs
MobilityMoved on four legs
First Discovery1970s by Joint Polish-Mongolian Paleontological Expeditions
Location of first findOmnogov Aimag, Mongolia
First Described by1975 by Teresa Maryańska and Halszka Osmólska
HolotypeZPAL MgD-I/126

Bagaceratops Origins, Taxonomy and Timeline

Bagaceratops, is named after the Mongolian word ‘baga’ meaning small, and the Greek ‘ceratops’ meaning horned face. Its species name, B. rozhdestvenskyi, honors the contribution of the Russian paleontologist Anatoly Konstantinovich Rozhdestvensky to the field of paleontolgy.

"Illustration of Bagaceratops, a small herbivorous dinosaur from the Late Cretaceous period, depicted in a side profile. This dinosaur is shown with a short frill and a beaked mouth. Bagaceratops, known for its compact build and distinct cranial features, inhabited what is now Mongolia.
Nobu Tamura, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Delving into its taxonomic classification, we find that Bagaceratops belongs to the Ornithischia. As a member of the Neotceratopsia, it shares characteristics with other horned dinosaurs, yet retains its unique identity.

It lived during the Late Cretaceous Period, specifically during the Campanian Age. This places its existence approximately between 83.5 and 70.6 million years ago, a time when the Earth was undergoing significant changes.

Listen to Pronunciation

For those curious about the correct pronunciation of this dinosaur’s name.

Discovery & Fossil Evidence

Various fossilized skulls and skeletal parts of B. rozhdestvenskyi, the type species of Bagaceratops, displayed alongside detailed anatomical diagrams. These specimens highlight the cranial and skeletal features of this small herbivorous dinosaur from the Late Cretaceous period.
Łukasz Czepiński, CC BY 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The story of Bagaceratops’ discovery begins in the 1970s, during the Joint Polish-Mongolian Paleontological Expeditions in the Gobi desert. These expeditions unearthed the first known fossils of this intriguing dinosaur in Omnogov Aimag, Mongolia. Later finds also placed it in regions of China, indicating a wider geographical spread than initially thought. It is found across the Baruungoyot and Djadokhta Formations in Mongolia and in the Bayan Formation in China.

The types of fossils found include cranial and postcranial remains, which have provided valuable insights into the physical structure and possible behaviors of Bagaceratops. The degree of preservation varies, but some notable specimens have been remarkably well-preserved, offering a clearer picture of this dinosaur’s anatomy.

Close-up of the fossilized skull of Bagaceratops displayed in a museum. The skull highlights the distinct cranial features of this small herbivorous dinosaur from the Late Cretaceous period, including its short frill and beaked mouth. Bagaceratops inhabited what is now Mongolia.
Ghedoghedo, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Following the description of the holotype ZPAL MgD-I/126, other specimens were described as Platyceratops tatarinovi, Gobiceratops minutus and Lamaceratops tereschenkoi. Those are now considered to be juveniles and subadults specimens of Bagaceratops rozhdestvenskyi, illustrating a large spectrum of intraspecific variations within the taxon.

Bagaceratops Description and Size

Though modest in size, this herbivore presents an intriguing array of physical characteristics. The head, crowned with distinctive small horns, hints at a possible role in social or defensive behaviors. Its neck and vertebrae indicate flexibility and strength, necessary for its herbivorous diet. The limbs were likely adept for its quadrupedal lifestyle, and its tail may have provided balance or communication functions. As for its skin, while direct evidence is scarce, it likely had protective features suited to its habitat.

Size and Weight

It was a small-sized neoceratopsid, reaching adult dimensions of about 3.3 to 4.9 feet in length. In terms of body mass, it weighed approximately 50.0 to 99.0 pounds, based on comparisons with Maginostris, a related taxon.

Size comparison chart showing B. rozhdestvenskyi, the type species of Bagaceratops, alongside other ceratopsian dinosaurs and a human figure for scale. The diagram highlights the small size of B. rozhdestvenskyi, a herbivorous dinosaur from the Late Cretaceous period, known for its short frill and beaked mouth.
PaleoNeolitic, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

This relatively small stature sets it apart from some of its contemporaries. Its smaller frill, about ten grinding teeth per jaw, and more triangular skull distinguish it from its close relative, Protoceratops. These physical attributes not only give us a clearer picture of its appearance but also hint at its lifestyle and possible behaviors within its ecosystem.

The Dinosaur in Detail

Bagaceratops stands out for several reasons. Firstly, its small horns, while not as prominent as those of some of its relatives, suggest a unique adaptation. These horns may have served various purposes, from defense to display.

Another notable feature is its beak-like mouth, indicative of a herbivorous diet. This feature not only reflects its eating habits but also provides insights into the types of vegetation it consumed and how it may have processed its food.

Among the notable specimens, the holotype ZPAL MgD-I/126 has been particularly enlightening. It has helped paleontologists piece together a more complete picture of this dinosaur, from its physical characteristics to its potential behaviors.

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Interesting Points about Bagaceratops

Bagaceratops in its Natural Habitat

Bagaceratops inhabited a world vastly different from ours. The climate and geography of the Late Cretaceous Period were diverse, with varying landscapes that it navigated as an herbivore. Its diet likely consisted of the vegetation available at the time, which it consumed using its beak-like mouth. It may have played a role in shaping the vegetation patterns of its habitat.

The social behavior of Bagaceratops is a subject of speculation. Whether it was a solitary creature or lived in herds, its interactions with other species, both as potential prey and as part of a larger ecosystem, would have been intricate. Its senses, though not fully understood, would have been adapted to its environment, aiding in its survival.

Contemporary Dinosaurs

In the ancient, windswept plains of what we now call Mongolia, Bagaceratops roamed with a sense of quiet confidence. This small, beaked dinosaur, no larger than a modern sheep, shared its world with a cast of contemporaries that made life both vibrant and challenging. Picture this: Bagaceratops, with its distinctive frilled neck, grazing peacefully, while the slightly larger Protoceratops ambled nearby (fossils of Protoceratops were found in the Chinese Bayan Formation, as of Bagaceratops). Both herbivores, they likely competed for the lush ferns and cycads, their beaks tearing through the greenery in a constant quest for sustenance.

But life wasn’t just about grazing. Danger lurked in the form of the cunning Velociraptor, a feathered predator roughly the same size as Bagaceratops but far more fearsome with its sharp claws and teeth. Imagine the tension in the air as Velociraptor eyed Bagaceratops, calculating its chances. Bagaceratops, though not a predator, wasn’t defenseless. Its frill and potential for defensive maneuvers could have deterred some attacks, but the threat was ever-present.

Then there was Gallimimus, towering over Bagaceratops, almost like a gangly ostrich on steroids. These giants, though not direct competitors for food, shared the landscape, their long legs covering ground swiftly, perhaps startling Bagaceratops now and then. In this ancient ecosystem, every day was a dance of coexistence, with Bagaceratops at its heart, navigating a world of diverse giants, cunning hunters, and fellow grazers.

Frequently Asked Questions

What does its name mean?

It means “Small-Horned Face,” derived from Mongolian and Greek languages.

When did it live?

It lived during the Late Cretaceous Period, about 83.5 to 71.6 million years ago (Campanian).

Where was it first discovered?

It was first discovered in Omnogov Aimag, Mongolia, in the 1970s.

What type of dinosaur is it?

It’s an Ornithischia, specifically within the neoceratopsids.

What did it eat?

It was a herbivore, feeding on the vegetation of its time.

How did it move?

It could have moved on four legs.


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 Bagaceratops. However, please be aware that our understanding of dinosaurs and their world is constantly evolving as new discoveries are made.

This article was last fact-checked: Joey Arboleda, 11-04-2023; Alienor Duhamel 11-17-2023