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Styracosaurus

Sty - RACK - oh - SAW - rus

Marginocephalia/Ceratopsidae
Copyright 2007

Field Notes

Name Means: "Spiked lizard"
Length: 18 feet (5.5 m)
Diet: Herbivore (Plant-Eater)
Time: Late Cretaceous
Location: Alberta, Canada, Montana, USA

A moderately large ceratopsian, Styracosaurus is known from several skeletons and skulls. In most respects these skulls were similar to those of its closest relative, Centrosaurus. They were characterized by an extensive bony frill with two large openings, or fenestrae, situated symmetrically on either side of the frill. As with Centrosaurus, these openings would have significantly reduced the weight of the frill. Again like Centrosaurus, Styracosaurus had a large pointed horn on its snout and a pair of small horns above the eyes. In Styracosaurus, however, the snout horn was straight, rather than curved, and the frill was fringed with numerous smaller, sharp, projecting horns.

Of the two dinosaurs, then, Styracosaurus seems to have been better equipped for defense. However, there is some doubt about the effectiveness of the horns on the frill. As they extended back over the neck, they certainly would have afforded some protection against predators and would have looked formidably threatening when viewed from the front, but as they stuck out to the side, they would have been difficult to employ as stabbing weapons. It is possible that the elaborate horned frill, which would have been covered with skin, served more as an accoutrement for courtship display than as a weapon of defense. There is no doubt, however, that Styracosaurus would have used its deadly snout horn to defend itself, or even to make pre-emptive strikes, against potential predators such as Tyrannosaurus.

Styracosaurus was one of the first horned dinosaurs to be discovered. Lawrence Lambe found the first skull along the exposures of the Belly River in Alberta, Canada, and in 1913 he formally named the dinosaur Styracosaurus albertensis. In 1930, Charles Gilmore named a second species S. ovatus. Today, however, scientists generally regard them as being male-female variants of the same species.

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