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Re: triceratops question



>My name is Christopher Tingley, I am almost 8 years old, and a super
>dinosaur fan!!  I have been reading this list for a few weeks, and I
>have a question.  One of my dino video tapes says that triceratops
>protected its young by keeping them in the center of the herd. I want to
>know if there is any fossil evidence that shows this could be true?  

        A good question from a sharp lad. No, there is no real evidence for
this behavior in Triceratops or any ceratopsians (although it would be a
spectacular scenario). I do not recall who proposed this hypothesis, but it
is based upon observations of extant musk oxen. When confronted by a lone
wolf on the horizon, the oxen will form the "covered wagon" formation to
protect the young. But when a pack of wolves approaches, they simply
stampede off. Certainly if a tyrannosaur approached a herd of extant musk
oxen, the oxen would not just stand around!
        However, instead of throwing the baby out with the bathwater, I'll
throw out the baby and raise the afterbirth. It is unlikely that
ceratopsians (or any other dino for that matter) would assume the circular
defensive position, but I imagine that they would exercise some degree of
defensive behavior to protect their young. Some species of birds today
(maybe even most of them) aggressively defend their nests from intruders.
Since at least some of the dinos nested in large groups, some sort of loose,
uncoordinated defensive behavior could indeed be postulated. Do any of the
extant colonial-nesting birds show any "advanced" or "coordinated" group
defensive behaviors? Such a situation would be a good place to start looking
for answers, rather than drawing improbable conclusions from loose mammalian
analogues.

Sam