HOUSTON MUSEUM OF NATURAL SCIENCE

TRICERATOPS
SPECIES: Triceratops
LOCATION: Houston Museum of Natural Science, Houston, Texas
DATE OF TRAVEL: July 1998

This photo, which turned out very nicely, is of the familiar skull of the ceratopsian Triceratops, the large dinosaur with three horns and a head frill that graces many childrens' books. These skulls of Triceratops, which are surprisingly common in relation to skulls of other species, are shedding new light on the evolution and mating habits of dinosaurs. Here is a passage from Don Lessem's book "Dinosaurs Rediscovered" describing some of the new theories:

"At the 1991 SVP meeting, Scott Sampson, an enterprising doctoral student at the University of Toronto, presented a sweeping profile of horned dinosaur behavior. After analyzing the skulls of horned dinosaurs, Sampson concluded that the animals must have wrestled each other with interlocking horns as many horned ungulate mammals do today. Sampson noted that while the horned dinosaurs were alive, their horns would have been covered with hard sheaths, which probably had ridges to help grip their opponents' headgear."

"The frills and horns of the horned dinosaurs appear to Sampson to be designed for intimidating and wrestling rivals rather than as weapons for use against predators. Farlow and Dodson interpreted the horns and frills or ceratopsians in 1975, noting that for the frill to be fully extended, the head would not be oriented for attack. Yet they were dangerous. The puncture holes in the cheeks and frills of horned-dinosaur skulls suggest to Currie and Dodson as to earlier workers 'that these animals fought with members of their own species.' Heavily vascularized horns and frills also worked to control body heat."


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