How to eat a Triceratops

triceratopsFirst, you tear off its head. The Triceratops was a herbivorous dinosaur that was about 30 feet long, 10 feet high that weighed 6- to 12 tons. Its head sported a long bony shield which served to protect its neck. It inhabited marshes and forests of western North American during the Cretaceous period.

Triceratops was preyed upon by Tyrannosaurus rex,(T-rex) a carnivorous dinosaur measuring up to 40 feet long, 13 feet tall at the hips, and weighing up to 8 tons.

So how did T-rex get past Triceratops’ bony neck shield? Paleontologist Denver Fowler and colleagues, working in the Hell Creek Formation of Montana studied fossils of 18 individual Triceratops that showed tooth marks on the neck shield. “Specimens exhibit a suite of puncture, score, gouge, and puncture-pull marks, which in combination with tooth-spacing patterns are similar to traces previously attributed to tyrannosaurid theropods.” Fowler et al. surmise that T-rex latched on to the neck shield of the Triceratops and tore its head off to get to the meaty neck muscles.

An article in Nature by Mark Kaplan presents a series of graphics showing how this may have occurred.

Fowler and colleges also found tooth marks on Triceratops’ occipital condyle, the ball-and-socket head to neck joint. The tooth marks could occur there only if the Triceratops had been decapitated.


Fowler, D.W., Scannella, J.B., Goodwin, M.G., & Horner, J.R. (2012) How to eat a Triceratops: large sample of toothmarks provides new insight into the feeding behavior of Tyrannosaurus. Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology 32(5, abstracts vol): 96

See also:

Where the Glyptodonts Roamed

Cold Case: What Killed the Mammoths

Arizona Geologic History: Chapter 1, Precambrian Time When Arizona was at the South Pole

Arizona Geological History: Chapter 2, Cambrian and Ordovician Time

Arizona Geological History: Chapter 3: Devonian to Permian Time

Arizona Geological History Chapter 4: Triassic Period

Arizona Geological History Chapter 5: Jurassic Time

Arizona Geological History 6, The Cretaceous Period

Arizona Geological History 7: The Cenozoic Era


  1. Good article! Keep them coming. I enjoy these much more than the “global warming” ones. And all of the commenters who pile on afterwards. Myself….I think we really don’t know or completely understand the whole process. I am not a warming skeptic. 50,000 years ago New York was covered in 500 feet of ice so…

      1. And in 1983 Tucson was hit with a massive storm. A High over NM was coupled with a cold front from Calif. coupled also with moisture from Mexico from the last of the Monsoon. Result: Bridges washed out and massive flooding in Arizona. Thats about what we saw in NJ/NY this week. Things happening at the right time.

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