Friday, April 15, 2011

April's Dinosaur of the Month: Triceratops

I realize that Velociraptor Awareness Day is this month, but Velociraptor already had its day in the sun. This month, we're going to talk about the beloved Triceratops. Think about the most popular dinosaurs you knew of when you were a kid. T-Rex, Triceratops, Stegosaurus, Brontosaurus, and Pterodactyl probably come to mind (Raptors didn't get popular till Jurassic park). Out of those maybe two ... and a half are actually dinosaurs. WHAT?!

Well we already talked about Brontosaurus a couple months ago, so you should be aware of his mishaps. Pterodactyl was never actually considered a dinosaur as they are just flying lizard in a completely different family. T-Rex and Stegosaurus are both actually dinos. Well what about Triceratops? Well, hes a dinosaur too ... but he might not be what you think.

That is the skull of Torosaurus. Who the hell is Torosaurus? He may be what Triceratops actually is. You see, last year two Paleontologists, John Scannela and Jack Horner (who is a known contrarian) published a paper basically saying that Triceratops is actually a juvenile form of Torosaurus. In order to fully explain their evidence, I need to present you with this:

These are Nedoceratops skulls. Basically, they are claiming that Triceratops is the early stage of life for this animal. The triceratops loses a horn and turns into Nedoceratops as a transitional stage. From there, it gains its horn back, gains an entirely different head shape, and becomes Torosaurus. Seriously, they are suggesting that this dinosaur went through a life cycle similar to a pokemon.

Anyways, the bottom line is that new evidence is showing that Nedoceratops is not a transitional form between Triceratops and Torosaurus. I don't want to go into all of the scientific details here, but you're interested in reading about it, head over to this article.

While the jury is still out on whether or not Triceratops and Torosaurus are linked, take comfort in the fact that Triceratops will not disappear. Since Triceratops was the name that came before either of the other two, this dinosaur (pokemon) will always be called Triceratops.

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