Pentaceratops was a herbivorous dinosaur that lived during the Upper Cretaceous period, about 75-65 million years ago. It was a large animal, with some specimens reaching lengths of up to 26 feet and weighing as much as 5-6 tons. It had a distinctive skull, with a large, bony frill at the back of its head and horns over its eyes and nose. These features may have been used for display or defense, or both. 

Key facts

Pentaceratops pronunciationPen-tah-seh-rah-tops
What does Pentaceratops mean?Five-horned face
Dinosaur typeCeratopsian
On the menuHerbivore
Length25 meters (80 feet)
Height25 meters (80 feet)
Weight5,000kg (about 11,000 lbs)
Life expectancyUnknown
Legs used to get aroundQuadrupedal
Estimated top speedUnknown
When they livedUpper Cretaceous period, about 75-65 million years ago
Where they have been found?New Mexico, USA

When & Where

The first fossils of Pentaceratops were discovered in the early 20th century in New Mexico, USA. The species was named by paleontologist Barnum Brown in 1923. Brown discovered a number of well-preserved specimens, including several nearly complete skulls, which provided a lot of information about the anatomy and appearance of this dinosaur. Since then, additional fossils of Pentaceratops have been found in other parts of North America, including Alberta, Canada and Montana, USA. These fossils have helped scientists to learn more about the biology and behavior of this fascinating animal.

Size & Weight

Pentaceratops was a large dinosaur, with some specimens reaching lengths of up to 26 feet. In terms of weight, it’s difficult to say exactly how much Pentaceratops would have weighed, as this can vary depending on a number of factors. However, it’s estimated that this dinosaur could have weighed anywhere from 5-6 tons. This would have made it one of the heaviest dinosaurs of its time.

Mobility & Diet

Pentaceratops was a quadrupedal animal. Like other ceratopsians, it was likely a relatively slow-moving dinosaur, but it may have been capable of moving quickly when necessary, such as to escape from predators.

As a herbivorous dinosaur, Pentaceratops would have primarily eaten plants, such as ferns, cycads, and conifers. It would have used its beaked mouth and sharp, tooth-like structures on its palate to bite off and chew tough plant material. It’s likely that Pentaceratops also swallowed small stones, called gastroliths, which would have helped to grind up the plant matter in its stomach. This type of digestion is known as hindgut fermentation and is common among herbivorous mammals.

Interesting Points

  • Pentaceratops was a member of the ceratopsian family of dinosaurs, which also included well-known species such as Triceratops and Styracosaurus.
  • Although they are not closely related, Pentaceratops and sauropods both lived during the late Cretaceous period, so they would have co-existed in the same environments.
  • Pentaceratops was one of the last non-avian dinosaurs to evolve before the mass extinction event that occurred at the end of the Cretaceous period. This means that it would have lived alongside some of the most famous dinosaurs, such as Tyrannosaurus rex and Triceratops.
  • Scientists believe that the frill and horns of Pentaceratops may have been used for display purposes, such as to attract mates or intimidate rivals. However, they may also have been used for defense against predators.

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