The Triceratop, or “three-horned face”, is a genus of herbivorous ceratopsid dinosaurs that lived during the late Maastrichtian stage of the Cretaceous period, 68–66 million years ago near present-day Denver, Colorado.

Triceratops is one of the most popular dinosaurs, and its likeness has been used in many different ways. It has appeared in countless books, movies, comics, and toys. One of the most famous depictions of Triceratops is in the film Jurassic Park, where it is shown battling a Tyrannosaurus rex.

Key Facts

Triceratops pronunciationtri-SERRA-tops
What does Triceratops mean?three-horned face
Dinosaur typeCeratopsian
On the menuHerbivorous
Length9 meters ( 30 feet)
Height3.5 m (11 feet 4 inches )
Weight5500kg  (about 12125 lbs)
Life expectancy70 or 80 years
Legs used to get aroundQuadruped
Estimated top speed32 km/h (20 mph)
When they livedLate Cretaceous era, 68-66 million years ago
Where they have been found?USA

When & Where

Triceratops fossils have only been found in North America, with the vast majority coming from Wyoming and Montana. A few specimens have also been found in Colorado, South Dakota, and Canada.

The Triceratops story really began during the “bone wars” of the late 1800s, when two rival paleontologists, Edward Drinker Cope and Othniel Charles Marsh, were in a race to discover and name as many new dinosaurs as they could. 

In 1887, Cope discovered the first partial skeleton of a Triceratops, which he named “Triceratops horridus.” The name was later changed to Triceratops prorsus when Othniel Charles Marsh discovered a specimen in 1889. 

This name change caused a lot of confusion for many years, as scientists were unsure which name applied to which fossils. It wasn’t until 1958 that the situation was cleared up by paleontologist John Ostrom.

Size & Weight

Triceratops were large animals, measuring up to 9 meters (30 feet) in length and weighing up to 5500 kg (about 12125 lbs). This size allowed them to deter predators as well as provide a large source of food.

What distinguishes Triceratops from other ceratopsids is its unique combination of features. It had a large skull (nearly 1.8 meters long), with three prominent horns: a shorter, centrally located horn on the nose, and two longer horns over the eyes. The neck frill was also unusually large and triangular in shape.

Mobility & Diet

Triceratops were herbivores, meaning that they ate plants. They had a beak-like mouth that they used to strip leaves from trees and shrubs. They also had hundreds of teeth, which they used to grind up plants into a pulp that they could digest.

Triceratops were quadrupedal animals, meaning that they walked on all fours. Due to their massive build, they are thought to have been slow animals, with a top speed of around 32 km/h (20 mph).

Interesting Points

  • Fossil evidence suggests that Triceratops lived in herds and may have been migratory. They are estimated to have had a lifespan of around 70 or 80 years.
  • In many skeletons of the Triceratops, the neck shield has visible signs of injury. It is thought that these injuries were inflicted by other Triceratops, possibly during fights over territory or mates.
  • The horns and frills of the Triceratops are thought to have been used for intimidation as well as protection from predators. The frill made it harder for the predators to bite the neck, and the horns could be used to jab at predators or knock them down.

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