This week's post is partly inspired by Sir David Attenborough and Ben Garrod's one-off TV special, Attenborough and the Giant Dinosaur, which is on BBC1 at 6.30pm tonight - don't miss it ! Read about it here.
I spent Christmas and New Year in Northern Ireland. Belfast is home to one of my favourite museums - the Ulster Museum - which has a particularly cool skeleton of a Triceratops horridus. Triceratops are one of the best known dinosaurs, along with the T-rex, which I wrote about here.
Triceratops were gigantic animals, which could grow up to eight metres long ( not including the tail ), and stand three metres tall. One cool fact about them is that their skull are the biggest skulls in the world - the longest found so far being 2.5m long - and the top two horns can be over a metre long.
It's not sure what the spikes were used for - Triceratops was a herbivore, so it's not to attack prey. It's now thought they could have been for the males to fight each other over females, and also to show from the size which ones were "dominant" - as well as defending from attackers That's pretty much the same function as antlers have in some deer (such as red deer), although these spikes were permanent (like sheep horns) and antlers are shed each year.
The beak is unusual - and the mouth is tiny compared to the size of the animal. It must have spent its whole day grazing to eat enough for its massive body.
Triceratops's teeth were unusual. Over the course of their life, their teeth are constantly replaced, just like sharks, and there were up to 800 teeth in the mouth at one time - although only a small number would be grinding food at any one time, with the others stacked underneath, waiting to emerge. There would be up to five teeth in each stack, and up to 40 stacks in each of the four sides of the mouth (top-left, top-right, bottom-left, bottom-right).
Scapula and spine
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