Science

Meet Horridus, one of the most complete Triceratops fossils

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The skeleton of a massive Triceratops that died 67 million years ago is one of the most intact fossils already found. Nicknamed “Horridus”, in reference to the species name (Triceratops horridus), the fossil, which is around 85% complete, made its public debut earlier this week at the Melbourne Museum in Australiaas part of the new exhibition “Triceratops: the fate of the dinosaurs”.

According to a statement from the institution, Horridus was a herbivorous dinosaur that lived during the Cretaceous period (about 145 million to 66 million years ago), and grew to impressive size. The fossil contains over 260 bones and weighs over a ton. It is nearly 7m long and over 2m high.

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The skull, which is 98% complete, is pointed with two horns forehead and a stubby horn on top of the nose. The neck frill is 1.5m and the skull weighs approximately 261kg.

As announced by the museum, the fossil was discovered on private land in the state of Montana in 2014 and Museums Victoria – the Australian organization that runs three state museums in Melbourne – acquired the specimen in 2020.

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3D projection of Horridus based on almost complete bone. Image: Museums Victoria

When Horridus arrived in Melbourne, its pieces were in eight boxes – some the size of cars, museum officials say. Fossil preparers measured, labeled and 3D scanned each bone before the skeleton was assembled for display.

“While many articulated Triceratops skeletons are on display around the world, only Horridus and a few others are made from bones from a single animal,” said Erich Fitzgerald, senior curator of vertebrate paleontology at Museums Victoria. . “This fossil includes hundreds of bones, including a complete skull and the entire spine, which will help us unravel the mysteries of how this species lived 67 million years ago.”

Erich Fitzgerald, Senior Curator of Vertebrate Palaeontology at Museums Victoria, examining the fossil. Image: Museums Victoria

In the exhibit, Horridus is in a chamber with projections illuminating his bones. Scientists can’t say for sure if Horridus was male or female, but his skeleton almost complete can tell a lot about the evolution, biology and behavior of Triceratops, according to Fitzgerald.

“Being permanently housed in the Melbourne Museum means this remarkable fossil will be accessible to science for generations to come,” he said. An interactive 3D digital model of Horridus is available for viewing on the museum website.

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