Science

Horridus the Triceratops is one of the most complete dinosaur skeletons on Earth


Pfister had no idea that he had stumbled upon one of the most complete skeletons of the mighty Triceratops.

“At the time, I suspected or hoped it was something special, but it took another month of excavation before I knew the size and quality of the specimen,” he said.

It is called Horridus, the name given to the specimen by its new owner Museums Victoria, Australia’s largest public museum organization. The nickname comes from his full name, Triceratops horridus, and he lived 67 million years ago.
Pfister is the owner of Great Plains Paleontology, a company based in Madison, Wisconsin that explores and excavates fossils. In his nearly 30-year career, he says, he’s discovered many specimens of Tyrannosaurus Rex, as well as other rare dinosaurs, but Horridus remains one of his favorites.

After discovering the dinosaur remains in 2014, it took Pfister more than a year to dig up the bones, along with a couple of his colleagues.

This is understandable, given that Triceratops left over 266 bones for paleontologists.

The skeleton made the long journey from North America in eight special boxes to reach its new home at the Melbourne Museum.

Scary herbivore

Erich Fitzgerald helped oversee the Triceratops Horridus.

According to Erich Fitzgerald, Senior Curator of Vertebrate Paleontology at the Museums of Victoria, these bones make up the most complete dinosaur remains in any Australian museum.

According to him, Horridus is almost 85% complete and is about 2.5 meters (8 feet) tall, 7 meters (23 feet) long and weighs 1,000 kilograms (2,205 pounds). The skull is 98% complete and has three horns along with a majestic frill, a flat bony plate protruding from the top of a Triceratops.

According to Fitzgerald, the dinosaur may have used its horns to protect itself from predators or to attract potential mates.

Little is known about how the herbivorous dinosaur was so perfectly preserved, but Fitzgerald said he thought the creature should have been buried shortly after death.

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“I suspect that the whole carcass was washed into the river bed, quickly sank to the bottom, and then was quickly covered with sand and silt at the bottom of the river,” he said. He also added that he could have died in the water.

Paleontologists can rarely determine the sex of a dinosaur, so it’s not clear if this Horridus was male or female. According to Fitzgerald, unless physicists invent a time machine, it is unlikely that people will be able to answer this question within a century.

“At the same time, it is these enduring mysteries that continue to motivate paleontologists to learn more about our planet’s past and arouse wonder in all of us,” he said.

How to see Horridus

This month, the Melbourne Museum opened an exhibition of Triceratops titled Triceratops: The Fate of the Dinosaurs.

It’s a permanent part of the museum’s collection, Fitzgerald said, so visitors don’t have to worry about the dinosaur exhibit disappearing anytime soon. Its placement in a public museum also allows scientists to do scientific research on the skeleton, he said.

If a trip to Melbourne is not on your wish list, you can explore Horridus 3D bones online.



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