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Torosaurus

TAW - roh - SAW - rus

Marginocephalia/Ceratopsidae
Copyright 2007

Field Notes

Name Means: "Bull lizard"
Length: 25 feet (7.5 m)
Diet: Herbivore (Plant-Eater)
Time: Late Cretaceous
Location: Wyoming, South Dakota, Colorado, Utah, USA; Saskatchewan, Canada

Torosaurus, one of the most advanced of the long-shielded neoceratopsians, had a gigantic head that measured up to more than 8 feet (2.5 m) long. This means that its skull was longer than that of any other land animal that has ever lived. Torosaurus's neck frill, too, was enormous and made up about one-half the total skull length. The frill had two large, symmetrical openings that reduced its weight. Torosaurus had two prominent horns above its eyes and a very small horn on its snout. All three horns pointed forward.

In terms of length, Torosaurus was not much smaller than its contemporary, and close relative, Triceratops, but because of its more slender build, it probably weighed considerably less. The fact that relatively few specimens of Torosaurus have come to light suggests that this dinosaur was much less abundant than Triceratops.

John Bell Hatcher discovered a skull of Torosaurus in Niobrara County in Wyoming in 1889. He sent the specimen to Charles Othniel Marsh, who in 1891 named it Torosaurus latus, in recognition of the bull-like size of its skull and its large eye horns. This skull has been in the possession of the Peabody Museum in New Haven, Connecticut, ever since. Partial remains of another four Torosaurus skulls have been found and have resulted in the naming of several species. However, differences between them have since been attributed to male-female variations.

Like other neoceratopsians, Torosaurus was a plant-eater that sheared off tough plant matter with a sharp beak powered by its strong shearing jaws. It then ground this food with the many rows of teeth in the back of its mouth. An interesting study of a Torosaurus frill, undertaken in the 1930s by Dr. R. Moodie, showed irregular holes in the bony surface that may have been caused by cancers.

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