South Dakota State Fossil
Triceratops (common name)
Triceratops horridus (scientific name)
Triceratops horridus is a species of herbivorous dinosaur that lived in the late Cretaceous period of the Mesozoic era, approximately 65 to 68 million years ago. Recognizable by its two long brow horns, a single nasal horn, and a protective, bony shield behind its head, this familiar dinosaur lived in what is now the Rocky Mountain region of the United States and Canada. Triceratops belongs to the familyCeratopsidae, whose members all have facial horns and bony head shields.
South Dakota named Triceratops its official state fossil in 1988. Previously, its state fossil was the cycad, a Mesozoic plant. One of the world’s greatest concentrations of fossils of this palm-like plant was at Fossil Cycad National Monument near Minnekahta, South Dakota. Unfortunately, these fossils were destroyed by vandalism, and the site lost its national monument status in the 1950s. The South Dakota state legislature chose Triceratops as a replacement.
After elementary schoolchildren chose it in a state fossil contest, Triceratops was designated the official state dinosaur of Wyoming in 1994. Triceratops fossils have been found only in South Dakota, Wyoming, Colorado, and Montana.
The genus name Triceratops means "three-horned face." This comes from the Greek words τρία (tria), meaning "three," κέρατο (kerato), which means "horn," and ωψ (ops), meaning "face." American paleontologist Othniel Charles Marsh named Triceratops horridus in 1889.
This dinosaur had one of the largest skulls of any land animal, reaching up to seven feet (2 m) long in adults. Although their use is not precisely known, Triceratops’ characteristic horns and shield may have been used for defense. This herbivore had a turtle-like beak and rows of grinding teeth for cutting through tough vegetation. Triceratops generally lived and raised its young in herds for protection from its main predator, the notorious Tyrannosaurus rex. Triceratops measured up to 26 feet (8 m) in length and 10 feet (3 m) in height. This quadruped weighed from five to 10 short tons (4.5 to 9 metric tons).
Triceratops was one of the last genera of dinosaur to appear before the Cretaceous–Tertiary extinction event. This mass extinction event took place approximately 65 million years ago and is thought to be responsible for the extinction of dinosaurs. Scientists do not know exactly what caused this event, but theories include asteroids, volcanic activity, and global climate change.
The first Triceratops fossils were discovered in Colorado in 1887 and were initially thought to belong to an extinct form of bison. A later specimen from Wyoming was used to correctly identify the fossil as belonging to Triceratops. Many other Triceratops fossils have since been uncovered in these states, as well as in South Dakota and Montana. A complete skeleton has never been found, however.
The Smithsonian has exhibited a Triceratops skeleton since 1905. The Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History now has the world’s first anatomically correct digital dinosaur. The reproduction was rendered from real fossils.
The 1993 movie Jurassic Park featured a sick Triceratops being cared for by humans. This film’s sequels also featured Triceratops,as did the 1988 animated film The Land Before Time and its sequels.
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|Author: World Trade Press|