Diceratops Facts and Figures

Also Known as Nedoceratops

Two Nedoceratops dinosaurs walking to water puddle in the morning light.

Elena Duvernay / Stocktrek Images / Getty Images

You can learn a lot about Greek numbers by studying ceratopsian ("horned face") dinosaurs and their distant and not-so-distant relatives. There's no such animal (yet) as Monoceratops, but Diceratops, Triceratops, Tetraceratops, and Pentaceratops make for a nice progression (alluding to two, three, four and five horns, as indicated by the Greek roots "di," "tri," "tetra" and "penta"). An important note, though: Tetraceratops wasn't a ceratopsian or even a dinosaur, but a therapsid ("mammal-like reptile") of the early Permian period.

The dinosaur we call Diceratops also rests on shaky ground, but for another reason. This late Cretaceous ceratopsian was "diagnosed" at the turn of the 20th century by the famous paleontologist Othniel C. Marsh, on the basis on a single, two-horned skull lacking the characteristic nasal horn of Triceratops--and given the name Diceratops, by another scientist, a few years after Marsh's death. Some paleontologists believe this skull actually belonged to a deformed Triceratops, and others say Diceratops should properly be assigned to the synonymous genus Nedoceratops ("insufficient horned face.")

If, in fact, Diceratops winds up reverting to Nedoceratops, then the possibility exists that Nedoceratops was directly ancestral to Triceratops (this last, most famous ceratopsian only awaiting the evolutionary development of a third prominent horn, which should only have taken a few million years). If that's not confusing enough, another option has been touted by the famously iconoclastic paleontologist Jack Horner: perhaps Diceratops, aka Nedoceratops, was actually a juvenile Triceratops, in the same way Torosaurus may have been an unusually elderly Triceratops with a grotesquely overwrought skull. The truth, as always, awaits further fossil discoveries.

Diceratops Facts

  • Name: Diceratops (Greek for "two-horned face"); pronounced die-SEH-rah-tops; also known as Nedoceratops
  • Habitat: Woodlands of North America
  • Historical Period: Late Cretaceous (70 million years ago)
  • Size and Weight: About 15 feet long and 2-3 tons
  • Diet: Plants
  • Distinguishing Characteristics: Two horns; odd holes on sides of the skull