Associated Press
Charles R. Knight's (1874-1953) Triceratops at the Smithsonian's Museum of Natural History.

New Fossils Show Triceratops as Social Creatures

March 26, 2009 12:06 PM
by Cara McDonough
Earlier fossils indicated that the dinosaurs were anti-social creatures, but new findings may prove that young Triceratops hung out together.

Dinosaurs May Have Been More Social Than Once Thought

All known Triceratops fossils found previously had been solitary individuals, prompting researchers to assume that the herbivores mostly avoided hanging out with their own kind.

However, a new discovery of at least three juvenile Triceratops in a 66 million-year-old bone bed in Montana provides evidence for the idea that the “teen dinosaurs were gregarious gangsters,” reports LiveScience.
The Triceratops is one of the best-known of all dinosaurs, with more than 50 specimens discovered, so scientists felt quite certain about their hypotheses regarding the dinosaurs’ antisocial behavior.

But the new find could change accepted theories. "Herding together could have been for protection, and our guess is that this wasn’t something they did full-time,” said Joshua Mathews of the Burpee Museum of Natural History and Northern Illinois University.
Click here to read about travel in Montana, including where to find dinosaurs.
The assumed solitary lifestyle of the Triceratops never fit in with other dinosaurs of the same kind. Triceratops were ceratopsids, herbivorous dinosaurs that lived until the end of the Cretaceous Period, 144 to 65 million years ago. Other ceratopsids have been found in large bone beds of multiple individuals, but Triceratops were always discovered alone.

Stephen Brusatte, an affiliate of the American Museum of Natural History, said that “what we've found seems to be a larger pattern among many dinosaurs that juveniles lived and traveled together in groups."

The Triceratops site was originally discovered in 2005 by Helmuth Redschlag, a Burpee Museum volunteer—and a fan of the show “The Simpsons”—who named the bone bed the “Homer Site.” The three juvenile Triceratops, which researchers believe were drowned in a flood, were eventually found at this site.

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Background: Recent dinosaur discoveries

The Triceratops discovery is only one of several exciting dinosaur finds over the past year.

In May 2008, scientists discovered evidence of a large ornithopod dinosaur, as well as a herd of 11 sauropods, in the Republic of Yemen. The find was another good example of dinosaur herding, much like the discovery of the juvenile Triceratops. Researchers said at the time that it was rare to find evidence of such a large herd.

A town in Utah made a name for itself in the dinosaur world in June when as many as six different types of dinosaur species were discovered there. Scientists found 148-million-year-old fossils of dinosaurs and massive coniferous trees outside the town of Hanksville.

Specimens found included Utah’s signature fossil, the allosaurus, as well as fossils from the stegosaurus, brachiosaurus, diplodocus, apatosaurus and camarasaurus. Locals have known the area as a dinosaur hotbed for years, but the new finds mean its potential scientific impact may be greater than once thought.

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