Danielle Hanna, Global Animal

WYOMING — It turns out triceratops aren’t the lonely dinosaurs we thought they were! A group of three triceratops skeletons have been discovered on a ranch in Wyoming, including one that might be the most complete skeleton of a horned dinosaur ever found.

The 67 million-year-old fossils may be able to give paleontologists quite a bit of new information about the development and behavior of triceratops. There have only been a few triceratops skeletons found worldwide before this discovery, and this is the first instance where a multiple triceratops were found together.

Triceratops fossils at National Museum of Natural History. Photo credit: mnh.si.edu
Triceratops fossils at National Museum of Natural History. Photo credit: mnh.si.edu

The group of triceratops included individuals of different sizes, likely two adults and one subadult, suggesting the possibility of some kind of family unit. Previously, the three-horned plant-eating dinosaur had been thought of as a solitary species.

Dr. Anne Schulp called it “a truly exciting find,” pointing out the potential of a site with so much data.

In addition to learning more about triceratops’ behavioral traits, the varied sizes of the individuals found should give some information about variation, growth, and development.

“It’s pretty sure these are all the same species, so it will help us determine the variation within that species,” said Dr. Pete Larson.

Researchers process the newly discovered fossils. Photo credit: Naturalis Biodiversity Center
Researchers process the newly discovered fossils. Photo credit: Naturalis Biodiversity Center

The excavation was performed by a group of 25 paleontologists including Dr. Pete Larson of the Black Hills Institute of Geological Research in South Dakota and Dr. Anne Schulp of the Naturalis Biodiversity Center in the Netherlands.

Before discovering the triceratops skeletons, the team had found the foot and leg of a Tyrannosaurus rex, who may have attacked the group of triceratops. However, upon uncovering the remains of multiple triceratops individuals, Dr. Pete Larson and his team realized they had an even bigger discovery on their hands.

The excavation is expected to continue for about a month longer. Once the remains are ready for display, they may be sent to the Naturalis gallery in the Netherlands.

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