If you had to name a modern animal that looks a little like a Triceratops, you might settle on a rhino. Both are big, imposing plant-eaters that could look after themselves. And, of course, both have big horns on their heads. Their horns were made of different materials, though—rhinos’ horns are made of keratin, the same thing that’s in your hair and fingernails. Triceratops horns, though, were made of bone—that’s how it was able to fossilize.
Both animals’ horns could be used for fighting. Rhinos use their horns to defend their territory and protect their young from predators. There’s evidence that Triceratops used their horns to fight off their predators too. Scientists think that in addition to using their horns for defense, Triceratops might have used its horns to attract mates, but it’s hard to guess all the ways that Triceratops behaved just based on the fossils we find. But there are lots of ways that rhinos use their horns, like their horns to digging for water and clearing away branches in their path. Can you imagine any other ways that Triceratops might have used their horns?
Photo by Nicholas Longrich and Daniel Field