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Triceratops model.jpg
Scientific Classification
Families and Genera

Family Ceratopsidae
Subfamily: Centrosaurinae

  • Achelousaurus
  • Albertaceratops
  • Avaceratops
  • Brachyceratops
  • Centrosaurus
  • Einiosaurus
  • Monoclonius
  • Pachyrhinosaurus
  • Styracosaurus

Subfamily: Chasmosaurinae

  • Anchiceratops
  • Arrhinoceratops
  • Chasmosaurus
  • Nedoceratops
  • Pentaceratops
  • Torosaurus
  • Triceratops

Subfamily: Unranked

  • Zuniceratops[1]

Family: Chaoyangsauridae

  • Chaoyangsaurus
  • Xuanhuaceratops

Family: Leptoceratopsidae

  • Leptoceratops
  • Montanoceratops
  • Prenoceratops
  • Udanoceratops

Family: Psittacosauridae

  • Psittacosaurus
  • Hongshanosaurus

Family: Protoceratopsidae

  • Gracilliceratops
  • Protoceratops

Family: Unranked

  • Liaoceratops
  • Microceratus[1]

Ceratops are a group of extinct dinosaurs that are often thought of as the rhinoceros of ancient times. The group is highly diverse with many families, but it is possible that the Ceratops represent just a single Biblical kind with a significant amount of variety.

They are best known for the horns on their face and the protective crest (or frill) on the back of their head. Their name ceratops in fact means horn-faced. The number of horns and the size and shape of their frills varied tremendously, and their taxonomy is based primarily on these distinguishing characteristics, such as the triceratops (meaning 3-horned face).[2]

Ceratops are found in abundance in the fossil record due to the size and durability of their bones. Most creation scientist interpret the existence of such fossils to mean that the organism was alive at the time of the global flood, which is described in the Biblical book of Genesis. Furthermore because the text says that all land animals were placed on Noah's ark, if correct the dinosaur was also included in their number, and became extinct very recently.


Ceratops discovery locations.

Ceratops were first discovered in southwestern Wyoming (1872) by an employee of what was then known as the U.S. Geological and Geographical Survey.[3] Ceratop fossils were once known only from discoveries in North America where they lived in large numbers and probably roamed in herds. Hundreds of fossils were discovered from Canada down to Mexico in the early 1900s and much is now known about these beasts.[2] Discoveries of ceratops have since been made in Asia although several of the finds are fragmentary forms and may or may not be valid.[3] The Turanoceratops may be the only member of the family Ceratopsidae found outside the US.[4]

Bird-like beak of Protoceratops

Ceratops were herbivores (plant eating) with a bird-like beak possessed by many of the dinosaurs that ate plants[2], and rows of shearing teeth in the back of the jaw.[5] Their elaborate frill served primarily to protect the vulnerable neck from predators, but it might have served other functions as well, such as display, thermoregulation, the attachment of large neck and chewing muscles.[3] The massive bosses on the skulls of some resemble those in modern musk oxen, suggesting that they may have engaged in the head-butting used to establish dominance in herds.[5]


The name Ceratops was assigned by the American paleontologist Othniel Charles Marsh in 1890 who argued that it should be assigned its own order based on several unique features, including the horns, a rostral bone (a unique bone that forms the beak in the low jaw found nowhere else in the animal kingdom), teeth with two roots, and fused neck vertebrae.[3]

Centrosaurinae Ceratops varieties drawn to scale.

Ceratops walked on four legs (quadruped) with hoof-like toes, and possessed the bird-like hips similar to all ornithischians. They ranged in size between 6-30 ft long with strong powerful legs that some paleontologists suggest allowed them to run fast - up to 40 miles per hour.[2]

The family Ceratopsidae, which includes the Triceratops, is the group known for the large head frills and horns, which are very much reduced in the other families of this order. The family is divided into two subfamilies (Chasmosaurinae and Centrosaurinae). The former are generally characterized by long, triangular frills and well-developed brow horns, whereas Centrosaurinae (picture at left) had well-developed nasal horns, shorter and more rectangular frills, and elaborate spines on the back of the frill[5]

Tricerotops, which is one of the best known of this group was also one of the largest measuring 30 ft long, 9.5 ft tall, and weighed approximately 6 tons. Its most prominent feature was its huge skull, which reached 7 ft in length. Although many of the frills in this group had hollow spaces (or windows) covered by hide, the Tricerotop's frill was solid bone.[2] Its skull also had 3 horns; a singe nose horn, and pair of horns above its eyes some of which were 3 ft long (1 m).[6]

Fossil Graveyards

Main Article: Fossil graveyard

Ceratops fossils are common across North America and numerous fossil graveyards have been found that contain these beasts in some number. Of Centrosaurus species alone more than two dozen graveyards (or bone beds) have been found in southern Alberta Canada. One very extensive bed located in the badlands of Dinosaur Provincial Park has been discovered that contains high number of ceratops and possibly tens of thousands of dinosaurs overall.[7]

It is believed by paleontologists that the animals at this site were killed in a flood based natural disaster. There are also indicators that they died elsewhere and were later transported into their final resting place. The bones are fragmented and the long bones were aligned by currents. The bones also indicate they were modified by an external force, probably in a high-energy sediment ladened water flow. Secular paleontologists assert it is likely that they were caught in a flood while trying to cross a river. Creation scientist Michael Oard feels the evidence is more consistent with the Genesis Flood.

The evidence is more consistent with the Genesis Flood in which the catastrophe would cause dinosaurs of the same kind or species to herd up … and then to be killed together during the onslaught of the Flood.[7]
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  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Ceratopsia by Wikispecies.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 Gish, Duane T., Dinosaurs by Design. Green Forest, AR: Master Books, 1992. p28.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 Ceratopsia by Wikipedia
  4. Turanoceratops by Wikipedia.
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 Ceratopsidae by Wikipedia
  6. Triceratops by Wikipedia
  7. 7.0 7.1 Watery catastrophe deduced from huge Ceratopsian dinosaur graveyard by Michael J. Oard. Journal of Creation 16(2):3–4, August 2002.