STL Science Center

STL Science Center

06 March 2018

Two Papers Only?

The number of papers concerning Triceratops (and by proxy of synonymy, Torosaurus) is far beyond anything that could be shared here. The first posts on this site originated in the year following the "loss" of Triceratops, as it was portrayed in the general media. However, as every paleontologist, amateur or professional, knows, the argument for synonymy of Torosaurus and Triceratops would actually be a loss of the genus Torosaurus as it was named two years after Triceratops. Strangely, the media missed this entirely, despite the paper and authors' (Scanella and Horner, 2010) assertions that "lumping" the genera together would cause Torosaurus to forever be referred to as "Torosaurus", meaning that it is a nomen dubium; a doubted name. Seven years later this "Toromorph hypothesis" is still debated within the paleontological community and a lot of rebuttal in publication (See Farke, 2011 and Longrich and Field, 2012 and Maiorino, et al. 2013) has led to a lot of disagreement. This is a common occurrence in scientific fields, but Triceratops status as a beloved dinosaur in the hearts of many makes this debate more contentious than other similar debates.

Many other papers examined other aspects of Triceratops throughout the years. Horn use, cladistic analyses, and even examinations of the manus (I would really like to call them paws here, but I think that might gather some boos from the crowd) have been published. The most popular subjects of study with Triceratops have been centered in thermoregulation and dental topics. The frill on the head of Triceratops has been studied a number of times because, as with any sail-like bodily appendage, we have many ideas as to why it might have existed, but cannot readily test those ideas without the soft tissue or, ideally, a living animal. Some hypotheses can be, and have been, tested, but there is a lot we do not know about the frills still as well. As far as dental studies are concerned, Triceratops mouth was basically a plant shredder and the teeth needed to maintain this function were unique to Triceratops and therefore warrant study apart from other dinosaurs with dental batteries (e. g. studies of hadrosaur chewing and dental batteries).

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