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Torosaurus and Triceratops: Are They Different?

Ishani Chatterjee Shukla
Are Torosaurus and Triceratops two different types of dinosaurs, or are both these terms synonymous? Let us find out more.
There has been a lot of speculation over whether Torosaurus and Triceratops are different kinds of herbivorous Ceratopsidae.
While a section of the paleontological fraternity believed that both are altogether different species of dinosaurs, recent research and paleontological investigations regarding the biology, structure, and other aspects of these gigantic saurians reveal otherwise and the revelations are pretty startling.
Now, before we raise the veil off this mystery, let's look at each of these two saurians a little closely in terms of structure, species, classification, feeding habits, etc.

Torosaurus Facts

Check out these interesting facts about the Torosaurus to get a closer look at this majestic prehistoric reptilian dweller of the Earth.
  • Torosauruses walked the Earth around seventy million years ago, in what was the latter part of the Cretaceous Period, which lasted from around 145.5+-4 till around 65.5+-0.3 million years ago.
  • They measured approximately eight meters from muzzle to tail, and are believed to have weighed around five tons.
  • The bony frill that encircled their skulls as a crest measured almost three meters end to end.
  • The name Torosaurus translates as perforated lizard, due to the presence of two massive holes in the frills of their skull―on each side of the frill.
  • Torosauruses were quadrupeds that walked on all four legs.
  • Despite their imposing appearance due to the presence of skeletal frills and a pair of horns (on their foreheads), they were herbivores, feeding mostly on ferns, coniferous plants, and deciduous cycads.
  • Their mouths ended in strong, bony beak-like structures with a minimal protrusion.
  • The Torosaurus tops the Ceratopsia group of dinosaurs, who were typically characterized by their horned, beak-like mouths.

Triceratops Facts

The following information on the origin and facts regarding Triceratops precisely sum up all features and characteristics typical to this category of frill-necked saurians.
  • The history of the Triceratops dinosaur is similar to the Torosaurus. Both existed around the same time, i.e., the latter part of the Cretaceous Period.
  • Similar to Torosauruses, Triceratops were quadrupeds and walked on all four legs.
  • They also had a large bony frill around their necks, but these frills lacked the perforations present in the skeletal frills of the Torosaurus.
  • Triceratops measured about eight meters from nose to tail, and weighed approximately nine tons.
  • Along with the two horns, they had an additional horn over their muzzle, which has striking similarity in terms of structure and placement to the facial horn of the modern-day rhinoceroses.
  • As Torosauruses, they were also herbivores, using their horned, beak-like feeding appendages to break off tough fibrous vegetable matter, like palms, ferns, and cycads.
Skeletal remains and other dinosaur fossils of both have been found around and across North America.

Major Differences

The chief difference between these two dinosaurs is that of the life cycle stage and not of kind or species. Recent paleontological investigations have established once and for all that Triceratops are nothing but very young Torosaurus. This fact was given away by the structure of the characteristic skeletal frill that was present in both.
Researchers, while conducting investigations on both, discovered that the skulls of both these variants were composed of metaplastic bones. The chief distinguishing characteristic of metaplastic bones is that they have the ability to elongate and shorten over one's lifespan to form into new shapes.
On close scrutiny of the skeletal frills of Triceratops, it was noticed that there existed two areas on the frill where the bone mass was extremely thin. The placement of these thinned-down areas corresponded perfectly with the perforations found on the skeletal frills of Torosaurus.
As the Triceratops grew up to become full-fledged Torosaurus, these thinning frill areas thinned further, and became the two massive holes in the Torosaurus' frill. Paleontologists have concluded that holes appeared on the frills to offset the weight of the growing frills, so that the head of the saurian was not weighed down by the volume of its neck frill.
Both of these are not different types of dinosaurs. The chief difference is only in terms of what stage of growth they are in. In other words, Triceratops would grow into Torosaurus, if it did manage to survive various predators of their prehistoric habitats.
As a joey grows up to be a kangaroo, and a cub turns into a lion, a Triceratops grew up to become a Torosaurus, by acquiring two perforations in its frill as a sign that it has come of age.