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Re: Triceratops defence

Random amateur thought: I was looking at a drawing of a Triceratops charing a T Rex in The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Dinosaurs this weekend and thinking, "unless that T Rex is asleep he's going to sidestep that charge and then have a clean shot at the unarmored body behind the frill, and that spine is right on top..."

Good point. I think there's a lot more fancy than fact in such depictions. However, whether T. rex was able to actually get its jaws around a fast-moving Triceratops is another question. After all, they had a good barrel-sized chest, and Triceratops t-bones were buried pretty deep.

Vis-a-vis the use of the horns and frill for display/competition, every animal head construction I can think of that's used for literally butting heads with another of the same species is non-pointy and mostly non-lethal. If two triceratops went at it with any vigor I'd expect one or both to be blinded or killed.

I don't think Triceratops would have literally butted heads. Perhaps it locked horns, but you are right, charging at full speed would be stupid. I envision contests something like those employed by deer and antelope, a kind of horn wrestling. There is evidence for some wounds in certain species (Chasmosaurus, Triceratops, Pachyrhinosaurus, to name a few), but the origins of these are unknown (genetic, disease, horn gore, predator attack?).

Also, it's hard to make assumptions about what the horns actually looked like in life. They probably had a keratin sheath surrounding them, which could have altered shape and size quite a bit. I think curly-horned ceratopsids would be kind of cool, in fact. This definitely would affect behavior. It's hard to tell from the fossil record, though.

At any rate, it makes for some fun speculation (some supported by fossils, modern animals, etc.).

Andy Farke

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