10 Famous Horned Dinosaurs That Weren't Triceratops

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Triceratops Wasn't the Only Horned, Frilled Dinosaur of the Mesozoic Era

Andrey Atuchin.

Although it's by far the most popular, Triceratops was far from the only ceratopsian (horned, frilled dinosaur) of the Mesozoic Era--in fact, more ceratopsians have been discovered in North America over the past 20 years than any other type of dinosaur. On the following pages, you'll find 10 ceratopsians that were every bit the equal of Triceratops, either in size, in ornamentation, or as subjects for research by paleontologists.

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Aquilops (Brian Engh).

Here's a quick primer in the evolution of ceratopsians: these horned, frilled dinosaurs originated in early Cretaceous Asia, where they were about the size of house cats, and evolved to plus sizes only after they settled in North America, tens of millions of years later. The importance of the newly discovered, two-foot-long Aquilops ("eagle face") is that it lived in middle Cretaceous North America--and thus represents an important link between early and late ceratopsian species.

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Centrosaurus (Sergey Krasovskiy).
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Koreaceratops (Nobu Tamura).

Discovered (as you may have guessed) on the Korean peninsula, Koreaceratops has been touted as the world's first identified swimming dinosaur: that's the interpretation some paleontologists have bestowed on the "neural spines" jutting up from its tail, which would have helped propel this 25-pound ceratopsian through the water. Recently, though, much more compelling evidence has been adduced for another swimming dinosaur, the much bigger (and much fiercer) Spinosaurus.

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Kosmoceratops (University of Utah).

The name Kosmoceratops is Greek for "ornate horned face," and that's a fitting description: this ceratopsian was equipped with such evolutionary bells and whistles as a downward-folding frill and no less than 15 horns and horn-like structures of various shapes and sizes. The most likely explanation for Kosmoceratops' bizarre appearance? This dinosaur evolved on Laramidia, a large island of western North America that was cut off from the mainstream of ceratopsian evolution during the late Cretaceous period.

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Pachyrhinosaurus (Fox).

You might recognize Pachyrhinosaurus (the "thick-nosed lizard") as the star of the late, unlamented Walking with Dinosaurs: The 3D Movie. But you have to wonder what went into this casting decision: Pachyrhinosaurus was one of the few late Cretaceous ceratopsians to lack a horn on its snout; all it had were two small, ornamental horns on either side of its enormous frill. If Triceratops had made the cut instead, it would have given WWD's hungry packs of Gorgosaurus a more cinematic fight!

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Pentaceratops (Sergey Krasovskiy).

Exactly how much better than Triceratops was Pentaceratops? Well, you might naively guess "two better," but the fact is that this "five-horned face" really had only three, and the third horn (on the end of its snout) wasn't much to write home about. Pentaceratops' real claim to fame is that it possessed one of the largest heads of the entire Mesozoic Era: a whopping 10 feet long, from the top of its frill to the tip of its nose, even longer than the noggin of the closely related Triceratops and presumably just as deadly when wielded in combat.

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Protoceratops (Wikimedia Commons).
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Psittacosaurus (Wikimedia Commons).

For decades, Psittacosaurus (the "parrot lizard") was one of the earliest identified ceratopsians, until the recent discovery of a handful of eastern Asian genera that predated this dinosaur by millions of years. As befitting a ceratopsian that lived during the early to middle Cretaceous period, Psittacosaurus lacked any significant horn or frill, to the extent that it took a while for paleontologists to identify it as a true ceratopsian and not a plain-vanilla ornithischian dinosaur.

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Styracosaurus (Wikimedia Commons).

Closely related to Centrosaurus (see slide #3), Styracosaurus had one of the most distinctive heads of any ceratopsian, at least until the recent discovery of bizarre North American genera like Kosmoceratops (slide #5) and Mojoceratops. As with all ceratopsians, the horns and frill of Styracosaurus likely evolved as sexually selected characteristics: males with bigger, more elaborate, more visible headgear had a better chance of intimidating their rivals in the herd and hooking up with available females during mating season.

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Udanoceratops (Andrey Atuchin).

Probably the most obscure ceratopsian in this slideshow, the central Asian Udanoceratops was a one-ton contemporary of Protoceratops (meaning it was likely immune from the Velociraptor attacks that plagued its more famous relative; see slide #8). The oddest thing about this dinosaur, though, is that it may have walked occasionally on two legs, like the smaller ceratopsians that preceded it by millions of years. Can you imagine a dignfied Triceratops pulling a trick like that? We rest our case!