Washington, March 24 (ANI): A new discovery of a jumble of at least three young Triceratops in the badlands of the north-central US has suggested that the three-horned dinosaurs were social animals, and may have exhibited unique gregarious groupings of juveniles.
Until now, all known Triceratops (over 50 in total) fossils have indicated that the prehistoric animals were solitary individuals.
In 2005, Stephen Brusatte, an affiliate of the American Museum of Natural History and a doctoral student at Columbia University, and colleagues, found and excavated a site that contained multiple Triceratops juveniles in 66-million-year-old rocks in southeastern Montana.
The geological evidence suggests that at least three juveniles were deposited at the same time by a localized flood, and this suggests that they were probably living together when disaster struck.
"This is very thrilling," said Stephen Brusatte, an affiliate of the American Museum of Natural History and a doctoral student at Columbia University.
"We can say something about how these dinosaurs lived. Interestingly, what we've found seems to be a larger pattern among many dinosaurs that juveniles lived and traveled together in groups," he added.
This find indicates that Triceratops juveniles congregated in small herds, a social behavior increasingly identified in other dinosaur groups, such as Psittacosaurus, a small cousin of Triceratops that lived in Asia.
"We don't know why they were grouped together or how much time they spent together," said Joshua Mathews of the Burpee Museum of Natural History and Northern Illinois University, who led the project.
"Herding together could have been for protection, and our guess is that this wasn't something they did full time," he added.
The site was discovered in 2005 by Burpee Museum volunteer Helmuth Redschlag.
Redschlag, a devoted fan of The Simpsons television program, named the bonebed the "Homer Site."
"It's kind of fitting that these big, bulky, plodding Triceratops are named after Homer Simpson," said Brusatte.
"But more than anything, we were able to find something shockingly unexpected, even though there are more Triceratops skeletons than (there are of) nearly any other dinosaur, and southeastern Montana has been combed for fossils for hundreds of years," he added.
Excavation at the Homer Site is ongoing, and the Burpee Museum team expects to find additional fossils of Triceratops juveniles. (ANI)