Fossils in Focus: Triceratops

Millions of years ago, in an age unlike ours, there existed creatures of size and scope that we can only dream of. Creatures so large, wondrous, and mysterious, that they capture the imaginations of both children and adults alike. I’m talking, of course, about dinosaurs.

Why dinosaurs, you ask? Well…

They say everybody has a hobby. Apparently, I have several. Besides writing, acting, painting, and several other time-consuming pastimes, there is one, in particular, that isn’t widely known. For those that know me well, this may not come as a surprise. But for those that don’t, I have a confession…

I collect dinosaur bones.

Well…fossils to be more specific.

So I figured I’d take a moment or two to brag about my small and scientifically irrelevant collection, and share it with you, the reader!

Still with me? …hello?


I’m just going to keep writing anyway…

Before I begin, I would just like to add a small disclaimer – I am an amateur collector. I am not a paleontologist. I love dinosaurs and I’m knowledgeable. That doesn’t mean I’m always right. Far from it. I’m still learning every day. If you’re an expert in this field or know something I don’t, please feel free to post a comment in the section below. I would love to chat with you!

So, for the first one, I’d like to show you two fossils in my collection that belonged to a genus of dinosaurs known as Triceratops.

Triceratops lived in the late cretaceous period, approximately 68-66 million years ago. It was also one of the last dinosaurs to appear before to the tertiary extinction event (also known as the day the dinos died). Probably one of the most recognizable dinosaurs today, this four-legged herbivore can be recognized easily by its signature three horns and giant head frill. Triceratops could grow between 7 and 9 meters in length, nearly 3 meters in height, and weigh between 6 and 12 tons (that’s anywhere between 13,000 and 16,000 lbs.). Summary? They weren’t small.

Fun fact: the skull of a triceratops made up approximately 35% of its body!

Now, while I wish I could say I have a complete skeleton to show you…I don’t. There are a few reasons for this:

  1. I don’t have the money. I will probably never have that kind of money. So don’t ask me this ever again.
  2. I don’t have the space. I will probably never have that kind of space. I think you know the rest…
  3. A complete skeleton has, to date, never been found. All the ones you see in museums are composed of several different specimens to form a complete skeleton.

But the two I do have to show you are extremely special to me. They’re the very first dinosaur fossils I purchased – the ones that started my collection.

The first one is a 5″ x 2.25” piece of a triceratops squamosal. For this particular dinosaur, it would be located on the lower/outer section of the frill that’s closer to the jaw. It was found in the Hell Creek formation in Montana, and purchased out of a fossil shop in Drumheller, Alberta.

The second one is a 1.3″ x 1.5″ piece of rib bone. While not very large or significant, the level of detail on the piece is quite remarkable! You can see the marrow center and the cracked texture along the outside. This was also found in the Hell Creek Formation in Montana, and purchased through a reputable fossil dealer online.

Fun fact: Triceratops is derived from Greek, and directly translated to mean “three-horned face.” Funny enough, the Triceratops only has two actual horns. The third shorter horn on its snout is actually made from keratin, similar to a human fingernail. As such, it may not have been much use in a fight.

Collecting dinosaur fossils, while expensive and challenging, can be a fun, educational, and rewarding experience. If it’s something that you ever decide to explore, please remember to do your homework and only purchase from reputable dealers! There are plenty of options out there, and if you don’t know what you’re looking at, it’s easy to be taken advantage of. If it looks too good to be true, then it probably is! But more on that next time…

Until then, I hope you found this interesting, informative, and extremely nerdy!

Cover image credit: cheungchungtat

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