Scientists say triceratops may not have existed

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Dec 14, 2012, 4:31 PM EST

We love the triceratops. It's our favorite dinosaur. Even though one could kill us (well, if it were alive now or we were alive then), we still think of them as the cute ones. But now it turns out that the triceratops as a distinct species—may never have existed!

John Scannella and Jack Horner, two researchers at the Museum of the Rockies, have compared the skulls of the triceratops with those of its close relative, the torosaurus, and decided that since dinosaur skulls can change shape during their lifetimes, the triceratops could merely have been a juvenile form of the torosaurus.

Here's how it was explained in New Scientist:

As the animal aged, its horns changed shape and orientation and its frill became longer, thinner and less jagged. Finally it became fenestrated, producing the classic torosaurus form.

This extreme shape-shifting was possible because the bone tissue in the frill and horns stayed immature, spongy and riddled with blood vessels, never fully hardening into solid bone as happens in most animals during early adulthood. The only modern animal known to do anything similar is the cassowary, descended from the dinosaurs, which develops a large spongy crest when its skull is about 80 per cent fully grown.

But guess what? Even though the torosaurus was the adult, and the triceratops the baby, the triceratops wins out! Because (also according to New Scientist) "torosaurus will now be abolished as a species and specimens reassigned to triceratops."

(via The Huffington Post)