Triceratops horns were lethal battle weapons, not mere ornaments

January 28th, 2009 - 1:11 pm ICT by ANI  

Washington, Jan 28 (ANI): After searching the skulls of Triceratops in museum collections across North America, paleontologists have come up with evidence that the horns on the animals were not just for looks, and were used to combat each other in the Cretaceous-era.

The study, led by Andrew Farke, curator at the Raymond M. Alf Museum of Paleontology in the US, have found battle scars on the skulls of Triceratops, which preserve rare evidence of Cretaceous-era combat.

Paleontologists have debated the function of the bizarre skulls of horned dinosaurs for years now, said Farke. Some speculated that the horns were for showing off to other dinosaurs, and others thought that the horns had to have been used in combat against other horned dinosaurs, he added.

If Triceratops fought each other with their horns, wounds from this combat would be preserved in the fossil bones.

So, Farke, in collaboration with paleontologists Ewan Wolff of the School of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Wisconsin and Darren Tanke of the Royal Tyrrell Museum of Paleontology, searched museum collections throughout North America for evidence of these injuries.

The researchers focused on the skulls of Triceratops and a closely related dinosaur, Centrosaurus.

If Triceratops and Centrosaurus only used their horns and frills for showing off, we would expect no difference in the rate of injury for both animals, stated Farke.

Instead, the team found that the squamosal bone, which forms part of the frill, was injured 10 times more frequently in Triceratops than in Centrosaurus.

The most likely culprit for all of the wounds on Triceratops frills was the horns of other Triceratops, said Farke.

The new study included over 400 observations, which were analyzed statistically to detect differences between Centrosaurus and Triceratops.

Our findings provide some of the best evidence to date that Triceratops might have locked horns with each other, wrestling like modern antelope and deer, said Farke.

According to the researchers, many of the injuries they observed may have been caused by misplaced horn thrusts from rival animals. Similar injuries are occasionally seen in modern horned animals.

The size and shape of the horns varied among different horned dinosaurs, and the researchers hypothesize that different horn shapes indicate different kinds of combat.

Furthermore, some evidence suggests that certain species may have evolved different kinds of horns in order to reduce the risk of traumatic injury. (ANI)

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