Triceratops is one of the most well-known dinosaurs in the world—everybody recognizes it by the giant bone frill on its head and its long horns. But the earliest known ceratopsian, or member of the Triceratops family, doesn’t have a frill or horns. And it doesn’t have the big, rhino-like body of a Triceratops, either—it was less than four feet long from nose to tail and weighed about 33 pounds. And while Triceratops stayed firmly on four feet, this dinosaur could stand on its hind legs.
But when scientists discovered the dinosaur Yinlong (meaning “hidden dragon”), they realized that it was a ceratopsian. How? The bony “beak” at the tip of its snout! This rostral bone looks like a parrot’s beak, and it’s something that all ceratopsians have in common, whether they’re big-horned Triceratops or little Yinlong!
Illustration by Nobu Tamura