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Re: Triceratops defence

At 09:57 PM 6/12/99 -0500, MegaRaptor wrote:
>I was wondering how an adult Triceratops would defend itself against a

(As noted earlier, this assumes _T. rex_ was a predator.  However, I will
take that as a given for this question, and besides I think the evidence
supports predation in _T. rex_ anyway...)

Well, adult _Triceratops_ were very large, very powerful, very well armed
animals.  In fact, even one missing its horns would have had a nasty bite
(as in "could cleave through tyrant legs" nasty).

I think it fair to say the safest answer is: anyway it could.  (The same
applies to Cape buffalo attacked by lions, minnows chased by bigger fish, etc.).

Among the defenses available would be:
I) Keep the front end aimed at the tyrannosaur: the horns make an effective
barrier, the bite would be quite powerful, and (importantly) it keeps all
the vulnerable bits away from the tyrants jaws.

II) Best defense is a good offense: see I, then charge.

III) Herd behavior.  If _Triceratops_, like some other ceratopsids, were
herd animals, there are some advantages to living in a group: extra eyes to
watch out for attackers, extra targets (making the chance of any one
individual in the group being attacked smaller), possibly even some
coordinated defense.

IV) Running.  Okay, this is a stupid idea, in that tyrannsosaurids show
numerous cursorial adaptations, and ceratopsids few ones.  Even if (as some
suggest) _T. rex_ couldn't get into a full run, it would still have
(potentially) a much longer stride than _Triceratops_, and could probably
overtake it by walking.  Also, running leaves the more vulnerable hindend

V) Hiding.  Hard to do when you are as big as an Indian elephant, but maybe...

VI) Not be a hadrosaur.  This may have been one the ceratopsids best
defenses... :-).

Of course, these are all possibilities.  The trick is demonstrating that any
of them were actually used.

Hope this helps.

Thomas R. Holtz, Jr.
Vertebrate Paleontologist     Webpage: http://www.geol.umd.edu
Dept. of Geology              Email:tholtz@geol.umd.edu
University of Maryland        Phone:301-405-4084
College Park, MD  20742       Fax:  301-314-9661