The Centrosaurus was dinosaur that existed on the earth in the late Cretaceous Period. It was a ceratopsid, the group which contained those dinosaurs that had large skulls with horns and projections. One of the most well-known animals of this taxon is the Triceratops, but it belongs to a different sub family as compared to the Centrosaurus and hence the two are distantly related at best.
The timeline of existence of this creature was about 79 to 75 million years ago. This phase lies in the Campanian age of the Cretaceous. This means that the dinosaur likely became extinct just before the Cretaceous Paleogene extinction event. Its bones have been unearthed in Alberta, Canada. Since no Centrosaurus fossils have been found in any region except Alberta, it is believed that this dinosaur had a very limited geographical reach.
The Centrosaurus was a plant eating reptile. Its size was moderately large, with its adult length being about 18 to 21 feet. Its weight was about 2 to 3 tons. Scientists believe that it lived in herds, but the evidence in favor of this hypothesis is scarce.
The name Centrosaurus is derived from the combination of two words. The prefix 'centro' is derived from the Greek word 'kentron' which translates to 'centers' or 'points'. The suffix 'saurus' is coined from the Greek word 'sauros' which translates to 'lizard' in English. Thus, this name roughly means 'pointed lizard'. The cranial frills of this dinosaur had numerous small and sharp projections all throughout it and hence this name was chosen for the dinosaur.
The species name C. apertus denotes 'uncovered', which alludes to the nature of the horns of the Centrosaurus.
The nomenclature of this dinosaur was performed by paleontologist Lawrence Lamb.
The name Centrosaurus is very similar to the name Kentrosaurus, which is the name of a stegosaur dinosaur. This had created a lot of confusion in the beginning of the twenty first century, but both the genera are defined currently.
Discovery of fossils
- The remains of the Centrosaurus were first discovered along the Red Deer River in Alberta, Canada. They were found by Lawrence Lambe in 1903.
- In the subsequent years, skeletons of multiple Centrosaurus dinosaurs were excavated in the Dinosaur Provincial Park in Alberta. These included individuals of all age groups.
- But the biggest Centrosaurus bone beds have found in the town of Hilda in Alberta. This region is called the Hilda mega bone bed. Overs thousands of individual dinosaurs were found buried in this region.
- Some scientists believe that the Centrosaurus was gregarious due the collective nature of its fossils. While others posit that some natural calamity brought these bones together in a single location.
Description of skull
The fossils of the Centrosaurus are similar to those of other centrosaurian dinosaurs. But the most prominent feature of this dinosaur is its skull. The length of the skull was about 1 meter. It bore a prominent nasal horn that was about 50 cms in size. The skull also shows small brow horns near each orbit. The frills of the Centrosaurus have one large horn each. This horn is surrounded by smaller thorny projections or horn-lets. The frills are rectangular and smaller as compared to those of Chasmosaurians. The facial bones are elongated to form a beak like snout.
- The Centrosaurus is classified under order Ornithischia, family Ceratopsidae and subfamily Centrosaurinae.
- Ceratopsids are the broad skulled, bird hipped dinosaurs
- The Centrosaurus is the type genus for subfamily Centrosaurinae, which means that it contains those dinosaurs which are more closely related to the Centrosaurus than the Chasmosaurus.
- Currently, only one species belonging to genus Centrosaurus is defined, the C. apertus. The subspecies which was defined in the year 2005, the C. brinkmani, has since been moved to the genus Coronosaurus.
- The Centrosaurus was a moderately large dinosaur, with its length being about 6 meters from snout to tail tip. Its weight was about 2000 to 3000 kilos. This seems like a substantial size but some of the herbivores of the Cretaceous weighed as much as 50,000 kilos so comparatively, its dimensions were moderate.
- The skull of this dinosaur was large and expanded. Many scientists believe that the purpose of these appendages was to protect the neck of the reptile.
- The appendages of the dinosaur were short and stocky. Its forelegs were shorter than its hind legs, giving the Centrosaurus the typical hunched over posture of ceratopsids.
- The tail of this reptile was thick and strong as well. It tapered off towards the end.
Habits and habitat
- The Centrosaurus was an herbivorous dinosaur. It fed on low lying shrubs and plants as ird head was held very close to the ground while walking; its neck was not flexible enough to reach for higher vegetation.
- There is a lot of debate about the function of the frills and horns of the ceratopsids, and the Centrosaurus is no exception. Some paleontologists believe that they were present for species recognition. They could have been used for courtship rituals too.
- The other faction of scientists believes that the horns could have been used for offense or defense against theropods or other ceratopsids.
But the nature of injuries on some of the frills indicate that they might have been inflicted by members of the same species. This could mean that they were primarily used in intraspecific battles.
- Some centrosaurians displayed sexual dimorphism, but there is no evidence indicating the same within the genus Centrosaurus.
- It is also debatable whether the Centrosaurus had lived in herds. The bone aggregations strongly suggests it did, but other causes such as floods or cyclones cannot be rules out as the reason for the phenomenon.
- The habitat of the Centrosaurus was limited to the plains and grasslands of present day Alberta. This region had abundant water bodies even in the Cretaceous period.
Related and coexisting species
The Centrosaurus is closely related to the Styracosaurus and the Monoclonius. Some scientists believe that the Monoclonius is synonymous with the Centrosaurus. The Styracosaurus possible displaced this dinosaur from the Alberta microenvironment.
It could have coexisted with the Ornithomimus, Edmontonia and the Dyoplosaurus.
The Centrosaurus apparently never left its habitat of Alberta throughout its existence on the earth. This is at ODs with the present day herbivores which migrate from one place to another constantly. But it is still one of best defined centrosaurids.
Just for fun we have a soundclip available for you to hear what a Centrosuarus could've sounded like. Click to the Dinosaur Sounds area to hear it. Please note that the dinosaur sounds are only for entertainment and are not an actual fact.