Protoceratops Facts & Info

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Protoceratops skeleton

The Discovery of the Protoceratops

The Protoceratops skeleton was first discovered by Roy Chapman Andrews. Andrews was a renowned paleontologist of the American Museum of Natural History in New York, United States. In 1922, he went on fossil-hunting expedition in Mongolia, Asia. In the Mongolian desert, he discovered fossil remains of the Protoceratops and fossilized eggs nearby. This was substantial evidence that dinosaurs laid eggs and some of them lived in family groups or herds.

Protoceratops was around the size of a large dog, so it was actually a small dinosaur. It was a herbivore and ate plants, despite the fact that it looked ferocious, with its heavy head, sharp beaked mouth and a large bony frill around its neck. The body of this small dinosaur was heavy with a long thick tail. Protoceratops walked on its four stumpy legs, and when sensed danger nearby, it was capable to move quite rapidly to escape the predators.

P. andrewsi growth series. Photo by Harry Nguyen

Facts on the Protoceratops

1. Protoceratops means ‘first horned face’
2. Its average size was about 1.8 meters long and 1 meters high
3. The average weight of the dinosaur was 400kg (900 pounds)
4. Protoceratops belonged to the group of Ceratopsians (Ceratopians)
5. It was a herbivore and ate tough leaves and plants
6. It lived around 110 – 66 million years ago in Mongolia in the Cretaceous period

The expedition in 1922 led by Roy Chapman Andrews in the Gobi Desert, in Mongolia was an extraordinary one. Even the Protoceratops’ nests which were unearthed with eggs in them were a remarkable discovery by Andrews. The discovery proved for the first time that dinosaurs laid eggs. As many as 30 eggs were found in one nest. It is unlikely that one female Protoceratops laid so many eggs at once. Experts believe that two or more females may have shared the same nest.

The skeleton fossils of Protoceratops found in Mongolia range from tiny ones still inside the eggs to small babies and fully grown adults. Some of the adults were slightly different in size because they had different shaped frills and other features may also vary. Experts think that this may be because the males were bigger with larger heads, frills and crests than the females.

Protoceratops had to guard its nests against predators such as the Oviraptor, which means ‘egg-stealer’. Dinosaur eggs would have made an ideal meal for it. A fossilized Oviraptor skeleton, with its skull smashed in, was found above a nest of Protoceratops’ eggs. Perhaps an angry mother Protoceratops had killed it when it attempted to steal the nest.