STL Science Center

STL Science Center

13 August 2014

Generalist Body Shape

Leptoceratops, along with many other dinosaurs, has a body shape that appears very general overall. This kind of body shape can be fitted to nearly any dinosaur from its family, like when someone draws a rather non-descript sauropod and it is subsequently labeled with any one of 50 different names. The small horns, for example, that contribute to the name Leptoceratops are actually present at different levels in almost all other protoceratopsians. The post-squamosal body of Leptoceratops is also quite general; a ceratopsian family "trait" could be said to be the lack of post-cranial skeleton resulting in exceedingly similar post-cranial bodies throughout the clade. This body is based on partial remains of numerous ceratopsians but might be said to be equal parts fact and fiction. Additionally, the "cheeks" are in question, as they are and have been throughout the history of descriptions of many animals within Ornithischia. There are some of us out there that grew up with dinosaurs with cheeks and that did not and there are some that have drawn conclusions based on evidence either for or against. My stance is that I take no stance because I have not actually thought it out independently for myself, though I have heard arguments against cheeks that make a lot of sense, so I may be slanting in that direction now despite having grown up with dinosaurs with enormous hamster-like cheeks around me. Leptoceratops without a cheek may have looked like the Yale Peabody Museum's cheek-less Triceratops (which was brought to my attention only very recently; no I have not been to the Peabody Museum, shame on me...). Regardless of the cheek situation, the post cranial body suffers from what I call "ceratopsian body disorder" that leaves it so that if you covered the head there would be almost no possibility of guessing the right dinosaur on the first try without firsthand knowledge of the small traits of its recovered skeletal remains. This can allow me to say, regardless of what dinosaur it was actually based on (Protoceratops, as usual), that the little dinosaur sidekick Pepperoni in Turtles in Time #1 is a Leptoceratops like dinosaur without being too far off. If you have yet to see Pepperoni, feast your eyes on this:
Available on many sites, but property of IDW Publishing and the talent of Ross Campbell


  1. Leptoceratops minus the cheeks was the very first modern cheekless ornithischian!

    (Picture used by Witmer et al. to introduce their retro-cheekless ornithischian concept).

    1. Thanks! I'm sad that I missed this, but it's good to see it is known about. It's pretty wonderful to see it fleshed out without cheeks too.