A group of fossils from four triceratops found in Wyoming could change what scientists know about the dinosaurs’ behavior.
Peter Larson is President of the Black Hills Institute of Geological Research. He says triceratops fossils are extremely rare. He says finding four of them together in one spot is especially significant because the skeletons are normally found alone. Larson says the discovery tells scientists more about the animals’ behavior.
“They were not solitary animals as we had thought for a long time,” Larson says. “But actually in this particular instance this was probably a family group because all four animals are a little bit different size. So we have a couple of adults, or one full adult, one sub-adult, and two animals which you would classify as small sub-adults and perhaps a large juvenile. So it will tell us not only about behavior, something about behavior that we didn’t know before, but it also shows us how these animals changed as they grew.”
Larson says scientists are still working to decide what the discovery means. He says it’s possible that triceratops were mostly solitary but stayed in family groups for a time as they grew. He says studying the past is important.
“It also plays into something that’s pretty important to us all, and that is understanding the climate of the past and how climate changes, what the consequences of rapid climate change can be,” Larson says. “Because we’re leading up to the extinction of the dinosaurs here, to the K-P Boundary where we have about 70% of life on earth became extinct in a geologic moment in time.”
The excavation has been underway since 2012, with help from paleontologists with the Naturalis Biodiversity Center in the Netherlands. Larson says the four skeletons will go on display together there.