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Triceratops coming to live in Australia

Ashley Argoon, December 3, 2020 7:00PM Herald Sun

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Dr Erich Fitzgerald looking at the lower jaw of the Triceratops. Picture: Museums Victoria media_cameraDr Erich Fitzgerald looking at the lower jaw of the Triceratops. Picture: Museums Victoria


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A triceratops that roamed the Earth 67 million years ago is coming to live in Australia.

The one-tonne* triceratops skeleton has been described as one of the most complete and best preserved dinosaur fossils ever unearthed.

Its new home from 2021 will be the Melbourne Museum in Victoria.

The gigantic skeleton dating to the late Cretaceous period was discovered on private land in Montana, US in 2014.

Triceratops being excavated at the field site in Montana, US. Picture: Museums Victoria media_cameraTriceratops being excavated at the field site in Montana, US. Look how big it is compared to the shovels behind. Picture: Museums Victoria

It features a full spine and a 99 per cent complete skull, making the fossil one of the most significant dinosaur finds ever.

Measuring about 7m from tip to tail and standing more than 2m tall, the fossil is larger than an adult African elephant.

Triceratops scale size chart. Picture: Museums Victoria media_cameraTriceratops would have been more than 2m tall. This chart shows it to scale next to humans. Picture: Museums Victoria

It is currently being extracted from rock at a depth of 1.5m.

The specimen was discovered by a fossil collector who spotted a pattern on a sandstone rock face that looked like part of a dinosaur tail.

Its arrival at Melbourne Museum has been described as a major coup for Victoria, attracting visitors and aiding scientific research by helping to understand how one of the world’s best-loved dinosaurs lived.

Museums Victoria chief executive Lynley Crosswell said it was a globally significant addition to the State Collection.

“We know our triceratops will delight and amaze audiences, and it will inspire us to consider the remarkable wonder and fragility* of life on Earth,” she said.

Victoria’s Creative Industries Minister Danny Pearson said the triceratops fossil would be a must-see attraction for all ages.

Triceratops moving to Australia

Triceratops means three-horned face in Ancient Greek.

We don’t know why they had horns, but it’s thought they could have been used to either attract or threaten other triceratops or perhaps to try to fight off its main predator, T-rex.

We also don’t know why they had a frill around their neck, but it could also have been to attract or threaten other triceratops or threaten T-rex.

The species was herbivorous — which means vegetarian or plant eating — but we don’t know exactly which plants it ate. Its teeth tell us it would have been able to cut and chew tough plants.

This fossil skeleton weighs more than 1000kg. The skull alone weighs 261kg.

The fossil is 87 per cent complete and one of the most significant dinosaur discoveries ever made, anywhere on Earth.

It will be the most complete, real dinosaur you will be able to see anywhere in Australasia.


  • tonne: weight unit. One tonne is 1000kg
  • fragility: how fragile something is


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Dinosaurs’ ferocious fight to the death

There’s a huge dinosaur in my kitchen!


  1. Where was this skeleton found?
  2. Where will it live?
  3. What did triceratops eat?
  4. Why did triceratops have a neck frill?
  5. How heavy is the fossil skeleton? How heavy is the skull?


1. How Do We Know?
How do scientists know that triceratops had a frill around their neck, when this is not part of their skeleton? Think about this and write down as many answers as you can think of.

Time: allow 15 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English, Science, Critical and Creative Thinking

2. Extension
The amazing triceratops fossil skeleton will move from Montana in the US to the Melbourne Museum. Imagine that you are in charge of getting the fossil safely to the Melbourne Museum. Write a list of safety rules that will help to make sure that the fossil gets to the museum safely.

Time: allow at least 30 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English, Science, Design and Technologies

Connective Collection

After reading the article, with a partner, highlight as many connectives as you can find in pink. Discuss if these are being used as conjunctions, or to join ideas and create flow.

Extra Reading in animals