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Temporal range: Late Cretaceous, 75  Ma
Titanoceratops ouranos skull by Nick Longrich.jpg
Closeup of the unrestored region of the skull
Scientific classification OOjs UI icon edit-ltr.svg
Domain: Eukaryota
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Clade: Dinosauria
Clade: Ornithischia
Suborder: Ceratopsia
Family: Ceratopsidae
Subfamily: Chasmosaurinae
Tribe: Triceratopsini
Genus: Titanoceratops
Longrich, 2011
Type species
Titanoceratops ouranos
Longrich, 2011

Titanoceratops (meaning "titanic horned face") is a controversial genus of herbivorous ceratopsian dinosaur. It was a giant chasmosaurine ceratopsian that lived in the Late Cretaceous period (Campanian stage, about 75 million years ago [1] ) in what is now New Mexico. Titanoceratops was named for its large size, being one of the largest known horned dinosaurs and the type species was named T. ouranos, after Uranus (Ouranos), the father of the Greek titans. It was named in 2011 by Nicholas R. Longrich for a specimen previously referred to Pentaceratops . Longrich believed that unique features found in the skull reveal it to have been a close relative of Triceratops , classified within the subgroup Triceratopsini. However, other researchers have expressed skepticism, and believe "Titanoceratops" to simply be an unusually large, old specimen of Pentaceratops.


The holotype specimen is OMNH  10165, a partial skeleton including a mostly complete skull and jaws, and much of the skeleton. It was found in either the upper Fruitland Formation or the lower Kirtland Formation. The original quarry is lost, so it is not known which formation the fossil was excavated from. The formations are both late Campanian in age. The skull is incomplete, but as currently reconstructed it measures 2.65 metres (8.7 ft) long, making it a candidate for the longest skull of any land animal. With an estimated weight of 6.55 tonnes (6.45 long tons; 7.22 short tons) and length of 6.8 metres (22.3 ft), Titanoceratops was comparable in size with the largest ceratopsians, Torosaurus and Triceratops , and was likely the largest animal in its ecosystem, if not in North America, at the time.


Life restoration Titanoceratops NT.jpg
Life restoration
Skeletal reconstruction, holotype material in white, with human for scale Titanoceratops Skeletal.svg
Skeletal reconstruction, holotype material in white, with human for scale

The skull measures 1.2 m (3.9 ft) from the tip of the snout to the quadrate, and the restored frill extends its length up to 2.65 m (8.7 ft) [2] making it a candidate for the longest skull of any land animal. Titanoceratops was as large as the later triceratopsins Triceratops and Torosaurus, with an estimated weight of 6.55 tonnes (7.22 short tons) [2] and a mounted skeleton measuring 6.8 metres (22.3 ft) long and 2.5 metres (8.2 ft) tall at the back. [3] In 2016 Gregory S. Paul gave a lower estimation of 6.5 meters (21.3 ft) and 4.5 tonnes (4.9 short tons). Tom Holtz (2012) noted that it is extremely similar to its closely related contemporaries Eotriceratops and Ojoceratops , which may all be synonymous. [4] The holotype skeleton of Titanoceratops consists of a partial skull with jaws, syncervical, cervical, dorsal, and sacral vertebrae, caudal vertebrae, ribs, humeri, a right radius, femora, tibiae, a right fibula, both ilia, both ischia, and ossified tendons. [2] In total, the amount of material assigned to Titanoceratops means it is quite well known, along with genera like Triceratops , Vagaceratops , Pentaceratops , Chasmosaurus , Centrosaurus , Styracosaurus , and Anchiceratops . [5]

History of study

Beds of the upper Fruitland Formation and lower Kirtland Formation in the vicinity of the Titanoceratops holotype quarry Fruitland-Kirtland formation, Coal Creek, New Mexico by Nick Longrich.jpg
Beds of the upper Fruitland Formation and lower Kirtland Formation in the vicinity of the Titanoceratops holotype quarry
J. Willis Stovall holds up the humerus, 1941 Titanoceratops field jackets.jpg
J. Willis Stovall holds up the humerus, 1941

The holotype of Titanoceratops was collected from the upper Fruitland Formation or the lower Kirtland Formation in July 1941, by a field crew consisting J. Willis Stovall, his student Wann Langston Jr., and Donald E. Savage. [3] The precise location of the quarry is no longer known. The holotype specimen consists of most of the fore and hindlimbs, some vertebrae, a fairly complete skull with only one small section of the frill, and partial lower jaws. [2] The bones, being preserved in a fine-grained shale, were crushed and fragile, and so the skeleton was initially considered unsuitable for mounting. Later, however, the fossils were prepared and the skeleton put on display at the Oklahoma Museum of Natural History.

In 1998, the specimen was described by Thomas Lehman as an aberrant and unusually large individual of Pentaceratops sternbergii , previously described from the same area. [3] The specimen was later reinterpreted as a member of the Triceratopsini, the group including Triceratops, by Nicholas R. Longrich and given the name Titanoceratops ouranos in 2011. The name Titanoceratops is derived from the Greek Titan , a mythical race of giants, keras (κέρας), meaning "horn", and ops (ὤψ), "face". The species name ouranos, refers to Uranus, the father of the Titan race. [2] Longrich's re-interpretation would have major implications for the evolutionary history and biogeography of chasmosaurine dinosaurs. Previously, the origins of Triceratops were poorly known. Until the Longrich's re-interpretation of Titanoceratops, Eotriceratops was thought to be the oldest known triceratopsin, and only dated to 68 million years old, from the uppermost region of the Horseshoe Canyon Formation. No Campanian triceratopsins were known, so it appeared as if the group evolved in the Maastrichtian. If Titanoceratops is a member of this group, it would demonstrate that they evolved millions of years earlier than previously thought, and it would imply a five million year long gap in the fossil record and ghost lineage leading to Eotriceratops. [2] However, several subsequent studies have cast doubt on the hypothesis that Titanoceratops is a triceratopsin. [6]


Holotype restored based on Pentaceratops Titanoceratops.jpg
Holotype restored based on Pentaceratops

OMNH 10165 is a particularly large chasmosaurine fossil, which Lehman originally assigned to the genus Pentaceratops, believing that it was a particularly large and old specimen. A 2011 study by Longrich disagreed with this interpretation, concluding that it was actually a distinct genus, which he named Titanoceratops. Longrich interpreted the specimen as sharing more characteristics with Triceratops and Torosaurus than with Pentaceratops, and he named a new group, Triceratopsini, to contain all of them. [2] Longrich used the following features to distinguish the specimen from other chasmosaurines: the possession of thin squamosals (Triceratops); an unsealed parietal fenestrae (Triceratops); an epijugal resembling a hornlike structure (Triceratops); a narrow median bar of the parietal (Triceratops, Torosaurus); a narial strut oriented vertically with a narrow base (Triceratops, Torosaurus); an enlarged epoccipital on the rear end of the squamosal (Triceratops, Torosaurus, Eotriceratops); an extremely enlarged premaxillary fossa (Triceratops, Torosaurus, Eotriceratops); and in lacking a narial process of the premaxilla that is dorsally inflected (Triceratops, Torosaurus, Eotriceratops). [2]

Front view of the mount Titanoceratops from the late Cretaceous.jpg
Front view of the mount

Lehman ignored Longrich's reclassification in his own subsequent publications. [7] As part of a 2020 study by Fowler and Freedman Fowler, the authors critically re-evaluated the evidence that Titanoceratops was a distinct genus. They agreed with Lehman's original assessment, that the features in the specimen that appeared unique were likely due simply to advanced age and unusually large size. Pending a full re-evaluation of the specimen by other researchers, Fowler and Freedman Fowler opted to consider OMNH 10165 simply a large Pentaceratops. [6]


The fossilized leaf of Sabalites, a Cretaceous palm, documents the wet, warm climate that prevailed in Late Cretaceous New Mexico Sabalites fossil palm leaf by Nick Longrich.jpg
The fossilized leaf of Sabalites, a Cretaceous palm, documents the wet, warm climate that prevailed in Late Cretaceous New Mexico

Titanoceratops is known from OMNH 10165, a skeleton from the lowermost Fruitland or uppermost Kirtland Formation. The Fruitland Formation is about 100 metres (330 ft) thick, and consists of sandstones, mudstones, and abundant coals deposited in a coastal floodplain. Fossil trees are abundant in the area from which the holotype was collected, suggesting a wet, well-forested environment.

A fossil tree stump from the Coal Creek area where Titanoceratops was found, showing the extensive coal beds of the area Fossil Tree, Coal Creek by Nick Longrich.jpg
A fossil tree stump from the Coal Creek area where Titanoceratops was found, showing the extensive coal beds of the area

The Kirtland Formation, which conformably overlays the Fruitland, is approximately 600 metres (2,000 ft) thick, and made up of sandstone, siltstone, mudstone, and shale. Both formations are late Campanian in age. The Fossil Forest Member of the Fruitland is 74.11 ± 0.62 million years old, and the Hunter Wash Member of the Kirtland is between 73.37 ± 0.18 and 73.04 ± 0.25 million years in age. The two members combined make up the Hunter Wash local fauna. Therefore, Titanoceratops dates between 74 and 73 million years ago. [2] The age Titanoceratops lived in is called the Kirtlandian land-vertebrate age, and it is characterized by the appearance of Pentaceratops sternbergii . [8]

A moderately diverse fauna is known from the Kirtland and Fruitland formations. [2] Among the dinosaurs known from the Fruitland and Kirtland formations are the theropods Bistahieversor sealeyi (previously Daspletosaurus and Albertosaurus sp. [8] ), "Saurornitholestes" robustus, Paronychodon lacustris , [8] and an indeterminate ornithomimid (previously Ornithomimus antiquus [8] ); the hadrosaurids Anasazisaurus horneri and Parasaurolophus cyrtocristatus ; the pachycephalosaur Stegoceras novomexicanum (previously S. validum); [9] the ankylosaur Nodocephalosaurus kirtlandensis ; and the ceratopsians Pentaceratops sternbergii and an unidentified centrosaurine. [2]

Non-dinosaurian fauna include the fishes Myledaphus bypartitus , and Melvius chauliodous ; the turtles Denazinemys ornata , Denazinemys nodosa , Boremys grandis , Neurankylus baeuri , Adocus bossi , Adocus kirtlandicus , Basilemys nobilis , Asperideretes ovatus , "Plastomenus" robustus, and Bothremydidae n. gen., barberl; the crocodylians Denazinosuchus kirtlandicus , Brachychampsa montana , Deinosuchus rugosus , and Leidyosuchus sp.; and the mammalians Paracimexomys judithae , Mesodma senecta , Mesodma sp., Cimexomys sp., Cinemoxys antiquus , Kimbetohia campi , Cimolodon electus , Meniscoessus intermedius , Essonodon sp., Alphadon marshi , Alphadon wilsoni , Alphadon sp. A, Alphadon sp. B, Alphadon? sp., Pediomys cooki ; Gypsonictops sp., Cimolestes sp., and an indeterminate eucosmodontid. [8]

Titanoceratops supports the idea that late Cretaceous dinosaur faunas were highly endemic, with distinct species found in the Southern Great Plains of New Mexico, and the Northern Great Plains of Montana and Canada. Despite extensive sampling to the north in the Dinosaur Park Formation and Two Medicine Formation, triceratopsins are unknown there. This implies that the triceratopsins originally evolved in the south, then spread north in the Maastrichtian. [2]

See also

Related Research Articles

<i>Triceratops</i> Genus of ceratopsid dinosaur from the Late Cretaceous

Triceratops is a genus of chasmosaurine ceratopsian dinosaur that lived during the late Maastrichtian age of the Late Cretaceous period, about 68 to 66 million years ago in what is now western North America. It was one of the last-known non-avian dinosaurs and lived until the Cretaceous–Paleogene extinction event 66 million years ago. The name Triceratops, which literally means 'three-horned face', is derived from the Greek words trí- meaning 'three', kéras meaning 'horn', and ṓps meaning 'face'.

<i>Torosaurus</i> Extinct genus of dinosaurs

Torosaurus is a genus of herbivorous chasmosaurine ceratopsian dinosaur that lived during the late Maastrichtian age of the Late Cretaceous period, between 68 and 66 million years ago, though it is possible that the species range might extend to as far back as 69 million years ago. Fossils have been discovered across the Western Interior of North America, from as far north as Saskatchewan to as far south as Texas.

<i>Chasmosaurus</i> Extinct genus of dinosaurs

Chasmosaurus is a genus of ceratopsid dinosaur from the Late Cretaceous Period in North America. Its given name means 'opening lizard', referring to the large openings (fenestrae) in its frill. With a length of 4.3–4.8 metres (14.1–15.7 ft) and a weight of 1.5–2 tonnes —or anywhere from 2,200 to nearly 5,000 lbs., give or take—Chasmosaurus was of a slightly smaller to ‘average’ size, especially when compared to larger ceratopsians. The Chasmosaurs were similar, in overall build and weight, to a white rhinoceros or an Indian rhinoceros; just like rhinos, and all other ceratopsians, they were purely herbivorous, needing to consume around 54 kilograms, or 120 lbs., of plant matter each day.

<i>Pentaceratops</i> Extinct genus of dinosaurs

Pentaceratops is a genus of herbivorous ceratopsid dinosaur from the late Cretaceous Period of what is now North America. Fossils of this animal were first discovered in 1921, but the genus was named in 1923 when its type species, Pentaceratops sternbergii, was described. Pentaceratops lived around 76–73 million years ago, its remains having been mostly found in the Kirtland Formation in the San Juan Basin in New Mexico. About a dozen skulls and skeletons have been uncovered, so anatomical understanding of Pentaceratops is fairly complete. One exceptionally large specimen later became its own genus, Titanoceratops, due to its more derived morphology, similarities to Triceratops, and lack of unique characteristics shared with Pentaceratops.

<i>Nedoceratops</i> Extinct genus of dinosaurs

Nedoceratops is a controversial genus of ceratopsid dinosaur from the Late Cretaceous period Lance Formation of North America. It is known only from a single skull discovered in Wyoming. Its status is the subject of ongoing debate among paleontologists: some authors consider Nedoceratops a valid, distinct taxon, while others consider it to be an unusual specimen of Triceratops.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Kirtland Formation</span> Geological formation in New Mexico and Colorado, United States

The Kirtland Formation is a sedimentary geological formation.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Fruitland Formation</span>

The Fruitland Formation is a geologic formation found in the San Juan Basin in the states of New Mexico and Colorado, in the United States of America. It contains fossils dating it to the Campanian age of the late Cretaceous.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Chasmosaurinae</span> Extinct subfamily of dinosaurs

Chasmosaurinae is a subfamily of ceratopsid dinosaurs. They were one of the most successful groups of herbivores of their time. Chasmosaurines appeared in the early Campanian, and became extinct, along with all other non-avian dinosaurs, during the Cretaceous–Paleogene extinction event. Broadly, the most distinguishing features of chasmosaurines are prominent brow horns and long frills lacking long spines; centrosaurines generally had short brow horns and relatively shorter frills, and often had long spines projecting from their frills.

<i>Eotriceratops</i> Extinct genus of dinosaurs

Eotriceratops is a genus of herbivorous ceratopsian dinosaurs which lived in the area of North America during the late Cretaceous period. The only named species is Eotriceratops xerinsularis.

<i>Ojoceratops</i> Extinct genus of dinosaurs

Ojoceratops is a genus of ceratopsian dinosaur which lived in what is now New Mexico, United States. Ojoceratops fossils have been recovered from strata of the Ojo Alamo Formation, dating to the late Cretaceous period. The type species is Ojoceratops fowleri.

<i>Tatankaceratops</i> Extinct genus of dinosaurs

Tatankaceratops is a controversial genus of herbivorous ceratopsian dinosaur. It is a small chasmosaurine ceratopsian which lived during the Late Cretaceous period in what is now South Dakota. It is known from a single partial skull which was collected from the Hell Creek Formation, dating to 66 million years ago. Tatankaceratops was described by Christopher J. Ott and Peter L. Larson in 2010 and the type species is Tatankaceratops sacrisonorum. Tatankaceratops is known from one specimen housed at the Black Hills Institute, BHI 6226.

<i>Kosmoceratops</i> Dinosaur genus from the Late Cretaceous period

Kosmoceratops is a genus of ceratopsid dinosaur that lived in North America about 76–75.9 million years ago during the Late Cretaceous period. Specimens were discovered in Utah in the Kaiparowits Formation of the Grand Staircase–Escalante National Monument in 2006 and 2007, including an adult skull and postcranial skeleton and partial subadults. In 2010, the adult was made the holotype of the new genus and species Kosmoceratops richardsoni; the generic name means "ornate horned face", and the specific name honors Scott Richardson, who found the specimens. The find was part of a spate of ceratopsian discoveries in the early 21st century, and Kosmoceratops was considered significant due to its elaborate skull ornamentation.

<i>Vagaceratops</i> Extinct genus of reptiles

Vagaceratops is a genus of herbivorous ceratopsian dinosaur. It is a chasmosaurine ceratopsian which lived during the Late Cretaceous period in what is now Alberta. Its fossils have been recovered from the Upper Dinosaur Park Formation. It is sometimes included in the genus Chasmosaurus as Chasmosaurus irvinensis instead of being recognized as its own genus.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Triceratopsini</span> Extinct tribe of dinosaurs

Triceratopsini is a tribe of herbivorous chasmosaurine dinosaurs that lived between the late Campanian to the late Maastrichtian stages of the Cretaceous period, between 74.73 and 66 million years ago. Fossils of these animals have been found in western North America, in particular West Canada, Western and Midwestern United States, which was once part of the ancient continent of Laramidia. The tribe was named by Nicholas R. Longrich in 2011 for the description of Titanoceratops, which he defined as "all species closer to Triceratops horridus than to Anchiceratops ornatus or Arrhinoceratops brachyops". Triceratopsins were the largest of the chasmosaurines; suggesting that gigantism had evolved in the Ceratopsidae once. In addition there is an evolutionary trend in the solidification of the frills, the most extreme being in Triceratops.

Dinosaur paleobiogeography is the study of dinosaur geographic distribution, based on evidence in the fossil record.

Bravoceratops is a genus of large chasmosaurine ceratopsid dinosaur that lived approximately 70 million years ago, and is known from the Late Cretaceous Javelina Formation in what is now Texas, United States.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Timeline of ceratopsian research</span>

This timeline of ceratopsian research is a chronological listing of events in the history of paleontology focused on the ceratopsians, a group of herbivorous marginocephalian dinosaurs that evolved parrot-like beaks, bony frills, and, later, spectacular horns. The first scientifically documented ceratopsian fossils were described by Edward Drinker Cope starting in the 1870s; however, the remains were poorly preserved and their true nature was not recognized. Over the next several decades, Cope named several such genera and species. Cope's hated rival, Othniel Charles Marsh, also described ceratopsian remains. In 1887, Marsh mistook a Triceratops horn for one belonging to a new species of prehistoric Bison. Marsh also named the eponymous genus Ceratops in 1888. The next year, he named the most famous ceratopsian, Triceratops horridus. It was the discovery of Triceratops that illuminated the ceratopsian body plan, and he formally named the Ceratopsia in 1890.

<i>Regaliceratops</i> Extinct genus of dinosaurs

Regaliceratops is a monospecific genus of chasmosaurine ceratopsid dinosaur from Alberta, Canada that lived during the Late Cretaceous in what is now the St. Mary River Formation. The type and only species, Regaliceratops peterhewsi, is known only from an adult individual with a nearly complete skull lacking the lower jaw, which was nicknamed "Hellboy". Regaliceratops was named in 2015 by Caleb M. Brown and Donald M. Henderson. Regaliceratops has an estimated length of 5 metres (16 ft) and body mass of 2 metric tons. The skull of Regaliceratops displays features more similar to centrosaurines, which suggests convergent evolution in display morphology in ceratopsids.

<i>Spiclypeus</i> Extinct genus of dinosaurs

Spiclypeus is an extinct genus of chasmosaurine ceratopsian dinosaur known from the Late Cretaceous Judith River Formation of Montana, United States.


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The Discovery of Titanoceratops - Nick Longrich