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World’s best Triceratops makes new home in Melbourne

Nui Te Koha, March 10, 2022 7:00PM Kids News

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Anika Ford, 9, and Max Preuss, 9, get a sneak peek of Horridus at the new Triceratops: Fate of the Dinosaurs exhibit at Melbourne Museum. Picture: Jason Edwards media_cameraAnika Ford, 9, and Max Preuss, 9, get a sneak peek of Horridus at the new Triceratops: Fate of the Dinosaurs exhibit at Melbourne Museum. Picture: Jason Edwards


Reading level: green

It’s no oil painting*, but Melbourne Museum’s new 67-million-year-old Triceratops has been dubbed the Mona Lisa* of the fossil world.

The dinosaur, named Horridus, is the world’s most complete and finely preserved Triceratops.

It has 266 bones, measures 7m long from tip to tail, stands about 2m tall and weighs a tonne.

“Horridus is a Triceratops without parallel on the planet,” said Melbourne palaeontologist* Dr Erich Fitzgerald.

“You cannot manufacture this. Horridus is the real deal.”

The fossil was found in Montana in the US in 2014. It was acquired* by Museums Victoria for $3 million and shipped to Melbourne in eight crates – some as big as a car – last year.

Unboxing of Horridus the Triceratops at Melbourne Museum. Left to right_ Tim Ziegler (Collections Manager Vertebrate Palaeontology) and Oskar Lindenmayer (Collections Manager Geosciences). Photographer Jon media_cameraMuseums Victoria collections manager vertebrate palaeontology Tim Ziegler and collections manager geosciences Oskar Lindenmayer unpack one of the eight crates containing the fossilised bones of Horridus. Picture: Jon Augier/Museums Victoria

An expert team of palaeontologists assembled the dinosaur over an eight-month period.

“This is the Mona Lisa of fossils, and it’s right here in Melbourne,” said Victoria’s Creative Industries Minister Danny Pearson.

“It will be an absolute drawcard for generations to come.”

Dr Fitzgerald said Horridus would put Melbourne “on the map as a must-see museum for dinosaur fossils.”

The Mona Lisa, by Leonardo da Vinci, is widely considered to be the most famous painting in the art world.

Triceratops moving to Australia


  • Horridus is the world’s most complete and most finely preserved Triceratops and the most complete ever acquired by an Australian museum.
  • 266 bones have been recovered, making up 85 per cent of the skeleton.
  • The skull of the fossil is 99 per cent complete and weighs 261kg.
  • Horridus has an enormous frill and three fearsome horns.
  • Weighing 6000–12,000kg when alive, Horridus is larger than a full-grown African elephant.
  • Horridus roamed the Earth during the late Cretaceous period, around 66-68 million years ago.
  • The fossil weighs more than 1000kg or a tonne, is 6-7m long and stands about 2m tall.
Erich Fitzgerald Senior Curator of Vertebrate Palaeontology at Museums Victoria with right hand of Melbourne Museum Triceratops. Photo by Eugene Hyland media_cameraDr Erich Fitzgerald, senior curator of vertebrate palaeontology at Museums Victoria, with the right hand of Horridus. Picture: Eugene Hyland
  • Triceratops was one of the last known non-bird dinosaurs, living right up to the day that an asteroid hit the Earth, causing a global mass extinction.
  • It is not known if Horridus was male or female. This is because organs and other soft tissues usually decompose* or are taken by scavengers* before they can fossilise*, making it difficult to tell the difference between male and female specimens of the same species.
  • Horridus was a vegetarian, or herbivorous. Triceratops had teeth that were excellent for shearing and slicing tough vegetation.

Horridus goes on display in the Triceratops: Fate of the Dinosaurs exhibit at Melbourne Museum from March 12.

Triceratops media_cameraHorridus would have been larger than a full-grown African elephant. Picture: Jason Edwards


  • no oil painting: a saying that means something is not attractive to look at
  • Mona Lisa: a famous oil paining by Italian artist Leonardo da Vinci, which was painted some time between 1503 and 1519 and is now on display in the Louvre Museum in Paris, France
  • palaeontologist: scientist who studies fossils
  • acquired: bought or obtained
  • decompose: decay or break down into smaller parts
  • scavengers: animals that feed on dead animals rather than hunting live prey
  • fossilise: become a fossil by being preserved in rock


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  1. How old is Horridus?
  2. What famous painting has Horridus been compared to?
  3. Why has Horridus been compared to this painting?
  4. Where was Horridus’ fossilised skeleton found?
  5. How much did Museums Victoria pay for Horridus?


1. A new name
Can you think of a better name than Horridus for this amazing Triceratops? Choose a new name. Write a letter to the Melbourne Museum explaining why your name is a much better one than Horridus.

Time: allow 15 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English, Science

2. Extension
“It was the moment we had all been working for. After eight months of carefully putting the pieces together, Horridus was nearly complete. Suddenly the worst possible thing happened …”

Write a story that starts with this sentence.

Time: allow 25 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English, Science

A dino-sized activity
Think of what your life would be like if you were a dinosaur, like a Triceratops. Write down what you would do to survive and what other types of dinosaurs you would encounter on your way. Would you meet a T-rex? Or maybe some Velociraptors? What would you eat and how would you collect the food?

Re-read your work aloud and check to see if you can edit and up-level any of the language.

Extra Reading in animals