Colorado triceratops fossils — The Denver Museum of Nature and Science reported Monday that it is exploring the construction site located near a retirement community in Highlands Ranch, Colorado where a lower leg bone and several ribs of potential triceratops were found. The triceratops fossils could be 68 million years old.
The fossils may belong to a torosaurian, a dinosaur similar to triceratops, but it is distinguished by three bones, fossil expert Natalie Toth told KDVR television.
Toth noted that the fossils appear to be intact, so the teams hope to unearth the entire dinosaur.
The fossils are embedded in a layer of rock between 66 and 68 million years old.
Toth explained that the fossils found in the Denver formation are dinosaurs that were among the “last that walked on Earth before its extinction.”
The Triceratops was a large vegetative dinosaur that lived at the end of the Cretaceous, between 67 and 65 million years before our era. His name means “three-horned head”. He wore two long ones on his forehead and a shorter one on his nose. He also had a large bony collar behind his skull to protect his neck and shoulders. Quadruped, its general appearance was that of a huge rhinoceros, with heavy limbs, the Triceratops dinosaur reached up to 9 meters long and weighed up to 5 to 6 tons.
Triceratops belongs to the order of the ornithischians and the suborder of the marginocephali, which include all the dinosaurs with a skeleton or cranium skull hyperdeveloped. There are currently nine species of Triceratops: T. horridus, T. albertensis, T. alticornis, T. eurycephalus, T. galeus, T. ingens, T. maximus, T. prorsus and T. sulcatus.
Some sources claim that it was Othniel Charles Marsh who discovered in 1889 the first triceratops. In fact, it seems rather that it was discovered by John Bell Hatcher, a fossil collector, a year earlier in 1888 while he was working for Othniel Charles Marsh.
A fossil skeleton of the triceratops dinosaur.
At the end of the twentieth century, there were about fifty skulls in North America, several bones but no complete skeleton. This animal probably lived in herds, in plains and forests which benefited from a rather mild climate. With his head down, he grazed herbaceous plants and could bend the branches with his horns to catch the leaves he chewed with his juicy teeth. His bone beak was devoid of teeth.
On the use of his horns and his cranial shield, paleontologists have put forward various hypotheses:
Defense against large predators, especially the tyrannosaur that lived at the same time and in the same regions. Despite the formidable power of the latter, it seems that the triceratops was able to emerge victorious in many fights because the defensive efficiency of the pair of horns-cranial shield should be unparalleled.
Affirmation of the role of dominant male in the horde and seduction of females. It is likely that fighting has opposed the males who clashed with horns. An upper part of the skull, hollow, apparently served to cushion the blows.
A means of communication for the flock.
The collar could also be used for thermal regulation. Vascularized, she was able to store or release energy depending on exposure.
The triceratops are probably one of the last dinosaurs to survive on Earth before the mysterious extinction of the group at the end of the Cretaceous, as evidenced by the triceratops bones found in the most recent sedimentary layers containing dinosaur fossils.
The two massive horns of Triceratopsse develop from small horns, initially curved towards the rear, which gradually bend forward during growth to take their final form. This is shown in a study by John R. “Jack” Horner of the University of Montana (USA) and Mark Goodwin of Berkeley (California, USA). They examined the skulls of ten dead Triceratops at different ages. The skull of the youngest, a baby, measured one foot (about 30 cm) long, while adult skulls exceeded six feet (about 1.80m). The horns of the baby’s skull were barely an inch long, but they lengthened and curved forward as the animal grew older: towards the back for the youngest, right for young adults and forwards for adults.
The bony flange of the Triceratops dinosaur also changes with age. In younger children, the border of the collar is decorated with triangular bones resembling arrowheads. These bones flatten and disappear with age and become almost invisible in adults. It is common to think that Triceratops used these horns as defensive weapons against Tyrannosaurus.