33" Ceratopsian (Triceratops?) Squamosal Bone - Hell Creek Formation
This is a spectacular, 32.8" Squamosal (back of skull) bone section of a Ceratopsian dinosaur from the Hell Creek Formation of Montana. The squamosal bone makes up the back side of the skull and is the proximal edge of the frill.
Two Hell Creek experts who have looked at it thought the surface texture was different than most Triceratops they'd seen and suggested it might be Torosaurus or another ceratopsian. To me the shape appears to match Triceratops more than the squamosals of other Ceratopsians known from the Hell Creek Formation, so I've left the ID as Triceratops with a question mark.
It is incredibly well preserved with just crack repairs and gap fills in the cracks. Great surface preservation with almost no erosion. On its stand, this is a very striking display.
The head on a Triceratops may have been an intimidating show rather than a stabbing, defensive trident and imposing shield for inter-species jousting. Researchers have given close scrutiny to the holes, or fenestrae, of other ceratopsid crests. In the past, the holes within the shield were used to confirm separate species.
Individual Triceratops are estimated to have reached up to 9 meters (29.5 ft) in length, 3 meters (9.8 ft) in height, and weighed up to 26,000 lbs. The largest known skull is estimated to have been 2.5 m (8.2 ft) in length and would have extended almost a third of the length of the mature individual. The pointed horns were approximately 1 meter (3ft) long. With its sturdy build and powerful legs, Triceratops could have ripped open the predator that wanted this herbivore for dinner.
One of the most abundant of the large Cretaceous fauna, Triceratops plucked low growth with its beak-tipped jaws. Triceratops teeth were arranged in groups called batteries, of 36 to 40 tooth columns, in each side of each jaw with 3 to 5 stacked teeth per column, depending on the individual’s size. This produces a range of 432 to 800 teeth, of which only a fraction were in use at any given time (due to tooth replacement). The great size and quantity of teeth suggests that they ate large volumes of fibrous plants. These were possibly palms, cycads, and ferns. (Wikipedia).
Triceratops was designated as the state fossil of South Dakota in 1988.