Styracosaurus

Styracosaurus was a genus of ceratopsid dinosaur that lived in western North America during the Late Cretaceous Period, around 77 million years ago. It was one of the last known non-avian dinosaurs before the Cretaceous–Paleogene extinction event and is known for its large size, long horns, and distinctive frill. 

Key Facts

DomainDescription
Styracosaurus pronunciationsty-RAK-oh-sore-us
What does Styracosaurus mean?Spiked lizard
Dinosaur typeCeratopsian
On the menuHerbivorous
Length5.5 meters ( 18 feet)
Height2 m (7 feet)
Weight3 tons (about 6500 lbs)
Life expectancyUnknown
Legs used to get aroundQuadruped
Estimated top speed32 km/h ( 20 mph)
When they livedLate Cretaceous era, 76-70 million years ago
Where they have been found?Canada, USA

When & Where

The first Styracosaurus fossil was discovered by Charles M. Sternberg in the Dinosaur Park Formation, near what is now Drumheller, Alberta, Canada. Lawrence M. Lambe later named and described the genus and type species, Styracosaurus albertensis, in 1913. The recovered skull had spikes overlapping in rows along the frill. The right side of the skull, however, was not recovered, and Lambe inferred that Styracosaurus had a single horn on each side of the nose, as seen in other contemporary ceratopsids like  Centrosaurus and Triceratops.

In 1915, Barnum Brown led a team from the American Museum of  Natural History to Alberta, where they discovered and excavated a nearly complete skeleton with a partial skull. Brown noted that it differed from Lambe’s description and assigned it to a  new species, Styracosaurus parksi.

Currently, only the Styracosaurus albertensis is considered valid, with Brown’s species assigned as a junior synonym.

Today, fossil remains of Styracosaurus can be found at the American Museum of Natural History and the National Museum of Canada.

Size & Weight

Styracosaurus was a large ceratopsian, comparable in size to the contemporary Triceratops. The largest specimens could measure up to 18 meters (60 feet) in length and weigh up to 4.5 metric tons (5 short tons).

The average length of a Styracosaurus was about 5.5 meters (18 feet), with a weight of around 3 metric tons (6500 lbs).

Mobility & Diet

Styracosaurus was quadruped, meaning it got around on all four legs. It is thought to have been a relatively slow dinosaur, with an estimated top speed of around 32 km/h (20 mph).

When it comes to diet, the Styracosaurus was an herbivore, meaning it ate plants. Its mouth was well-suited for crunching through tough vegetation, with sharp, serrated teeth. Since grass had yet to evolve during the Late Cretaceous, it is likely that the Styracosaurus fed on ferns, cycads, and other prehistoric plants.

Interesting Points

  • One of the most distinctive features of the Styracosaurus was its numerous large spike-like horns, which projected from its frill. These horns were made of keratin, the same material found in human hair and nails.
  • The Styracosaurus had groups of teeth on its cheeks known as batteries. These were used to help the dinosaur chew its food.
  • The Styracosaurus skull alone could measure up to 2 meters (6.5 feet) in length and  1.5 meters (5 feet) in width.

Featured Image Credit: Nobu Tamura, CC BY 3.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0, via Wikimedia Commons