An Ultimate Guide to Torosaurus: The Perforated Lizard

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Name Meaning“Perforated Lizard”Height2.2 to 2.5 meters (7 to 8 feet)
PronunciationTor-oh-SORE-usLength7.6 to 9.1 meters (25 to 30 feet)
EraMesozoicLate CretaceousWeight3.9 to 5.8 tons (8,800 to 13,000 lbs)
ClassificationDinosauria,‭ Ornithischia & CeratopsiaLocationNorth America

Torosaurus Pictures

Torosaurus | Warpaintcobra via iStock

The Torosaurus

Gage Beasley Prehistoric's Suchomimus Concept
Gage Beasley Prehistoric’s Torosaurus Concept

Torosaurus is one of the many ceratopsian dinosaurs that lived in North America. 

While relatives of ceratopsians date back to the Jurassic period, it was only until the Cretaceous period that these dinosaurs began to thrive. 

Torosaurus was a large chasmosaurine and had one of the largest heads of any land animal to ever exist. 

The discovery of Torosaurus dates back over a decade, to 1891, in southeastern Wyoming. 

Ceratopsian fossils are one of the most commonly found fossils in North America, specifically that of the Triceratops

Since the discovery of Torosaurus, there has been heavy debate on whether they are a synonym for the Triceratops and are the same species. 

Torosaurus from the Cretaceous era scene 3D illustration | Warpaintcobra via iStock

Torosaurus is one of the rarer ceratopsian dinosaurs to find fossilized but is among the most interesting. 

With the help of other similar species, there has been a lot learned over time about this ancient animal that once walked the earth.

The large heads, beaked faces, many horns, and giant bodies are just a few reasons Ceratopsians are among the most loved and iconic dinosaurs. 

This article will cover the Torosaurus and everything you need to know about these ancient giants. 

Ceratopsian dinosaurs managed to live and thrive alongside some of the fiercest predators, like Tyrannosaurus Rex and the giant pterosaur Quetzalcoatlus.

Gage Beasley's Prehistoric Shirt Collection
Gage Beasley’s Prehistoric Shirt Collection
Gage Beasley's Prehistoric Plush Collection
Gage Beasley’s Prehistoric Plush Collection

Physical Characteristics

Torosaurus is one of the largest ceratopsians and also has one of the largest skulls of any known land animal. 

The Torosaurus had a build similar to other ceratopsian dinosaurs, walking on all fours, with a robust body, horns coming out of its head, and a large frill. 

Torosaurus massive head
Torosaurus massive head | CoreyFord via iStock

Standing around 2.1 to 2.4 meters (7 to 8 feet) tall, Torosaurus had a length measuring between 7.6 to 8.2 (25 to 27 ft.) when fully grown. 

They had a thick build to help defend themselves from predatory theropods and weighed between 6 to 7 tons (13,000 to 15,000 lbs).

The skull of Torosaurus had a large frill that reached up to 2.77 meters (9.1 ft.) in length. 

Gage Beasley Prehistoric’s Suchumimus Size Torosaurus Chart

The mouth of the Torosaurus was beaked like a bird. 

On the bridge of their beak, Torosaurus had a small horn and two larger ones above their eyes. 

The frill of the Torosaurus is what made them stand out from other Ceratopsians, as it was extremely large, and had two large holes in it.

Since their discovery in the 1800s, the Torosaurus has been compared with the Triceratops on their appearance. 

The size of their frill and the holes in it is what distinguishes the two dinosaurs. 

Even though Torosaurus had a large skull, these dinosaurs were likely smaller than the triceratops overall. 

Habitat and Distribution

Torosaurus inhabited North America during the late Cretaceous period. 

Their fossils have been discovered within the United States in places such as Utah, Wyoming, Texas, and New Mexico. 

They have even been found as far north as Saskatchewan, Canada. 

Torosaurus lived 72.1 to 66 million years ago, and North America’s habitat looked very different than today. 

In the Late Cretaceous period, during the time of the Torosaurus, North America was made up of the landmasses of Appalachia and Laramidia. 

Dividing the two land masses was the Western Interior Seaway. Torosaurus would inhabit Laramidia, which today makes up the stretch of land from Alaska to Mexico. 

Much more is known about Laramidia as the conditions were right for fossil preservation, unlike Appalachia.

North America in the Late Cretaceous period was a thriving ecosystem, with dinosaurs, flowering plants, redwood forests, and other types of trees. 

Torosaurus roaming in the green meadow looking for food
Torosaurus roaming in the green meadow looking for food | MR1805 via iStock

There are many plants you can find today, like roses and magnolias. 

The range of the Torosaurus and Triceratops differ slightly, indicated by where their fossils have been found. 

The Torosaurus distribution has been essential in this dinosaur being named its own species. 

While the two dinosaurs have a range that inter-laps, the Triceratops is seen farther north, while the Torosaurus is further south.  

Behavior and Diet

Torosaurus eating grass
Torosaurus eating grass | MR1805 via iStock

The Torosaurus was a herbivore, and due to its large size, had to constantly be eating. 

This dinosaur likely browsed through the day and fed on plants they came across, like ferns, flowers, conifers, and cycads. 

The beak and shearing teeth of the Torosaurus were used to bite through thick vegetation and shear off plants. 

The cheek teeth of the Torosaurus were designed like other Ceratopsian dinosaurs to be good chewers.

A small herd of Torosaurus dinosaurs during Earths Cretaceous period.
A small herd of Torosaurus dinosaurs during Earth Cretaceous period / MR1805 via iStock

Fossil evidence suggests ceratopsian dinosaurs like the Torosaurus likely traveled together in herds and fed together.

Large fossils beds found with hundreds of Ceratopsian dinosaurs have been discovered. 

These animals could be compared to modern elephants, who were also large herbivores that traveled together in groups. 

Life Cycle

Torosaurus begins its life by finding a place to hide in the desert | Warpaintcobra via iStock

The lack of fossil evidence makes it difficult to learn about the lifecycle of the Torosaurus, including things like how these dinosaurs appeared when young. 

Some scientists suggest that the Torosaurus is the adult form of the Triceratops, but this has yet to be proven. 

Ceratopsian dinosaurs have been one of the most common types of dinosaurs discovered, and some species have been found with a complete growth cycle, like the Protoceratops and the Psittacosaurus.

All dinosaurs, including the Torosaurus, started their life in eggs, but no fossilized eggs of this species have been discovered. 

Parents had to guard their eggs from larger and smaller predators.

After birth, young Torosaurus would join the herd. 

Torosaurus herd
Torosaurus herd | MR1805 via iStock

The protection of the herd is what allowed young Torosauurs to survive in a time with many dangerous predators

The behavior of these animals could be compared with modern animals who live in herds, with the males being the leaders. 

The frill of the Torosaurus could have had several uses, and the theory is males could have used it to attract mates. 

With further studies, there is a lot to be learned about the Torosaurus lifecycle and how these animals interacted with the world around them.

Evolution and History

Torosaurus showing its massive horns in his head, showing that he can defend from any predator
Torosaurus showing its massive horns in his head, showing that he can defend from any predator | MR1805 via iStock

The discovery of the Torosaurus dates back to 1891 in Wyoming Niobrara, when two ceratopsian skulls were discovered. 

Paleontologist Othniel Charles Marsh is who named this dinosaur. Some have Torosaurus translated into the “Bull Lizard,” but a more likely translation of the name is the “Perforated Lizard.” 

The confusion by their name occurs since it was not originally specified but their name likely references the hole in their frill.

There have been three species of Torosaurs named which are T. latus. T. utahensis, and T. gladius. 

Today only T. latus, and T. utahensis are considered species, as T. gladus is now considered identical to T. latus. 

Tiny the Torosaurus, Denver Museum of Nature and Science | David Wipf via Wikipedia CC BY 2.0

The first fossils of Torosaurs were discovered in the Lance Formation in Wyoming, and today there are around eight specimens that have been found across North America. 

Torosaurus has been compared with the Triceratops since its discovery, and some paleontologists consider the two to be the same dinosaur. 

Some studies suggesting this theory include the one done by Scanella and Jack Horner in 2010. 

This study suggested the two dinosaurs were in different growth stages of the same species. Part of this theory suggests that as the Triceratops grows, holes begin to form in their frill. 

2011, 2012, and 2013 were important years as experts took the time to study in-depth the fossils found of both Triceratops and Torosaurus to figure out if they were the same dinosaur. 

Experts are still debating this important topic, and the consensus may change in the future. 

Interactions with Other Species

The Torosaurus lived among some of the most dangerous animals but had all the tools it needed to defend itself. 

Torosaurus had a large frill to defend its neck from attacks and horns to stab incoming predators. 

Restoration of T. latus
Restoration of T. latus | Jaime A. Headden via Wikipedia CC BY 3.0

Living in groups also increased this dinosaur’s survivability, as they had strength in numbers. 

Some of the predators Torosaurus faced include species like the Tyrannosaurus Rex and smaller Maniraptorans. 

Smaller dinosaurs could have taken down the large Torosaurus by grouping together and attacking one target. 

The Tyrannosaurus Rex would have had a difficult time killing a large ceratopsian dinosaur, but all it needed was a well-placed bite. 

Ceratopsian dinosaurs represent one of the most successful types of herbivores to exist. 

Even with their slower speed, their large size and many defenses made them capable of going against Earth’s fiercest and strongest dinosaurs

Cultural Significance

Torosaurus had the largest skulls of any known land animal
Torosaurus had the largest skulls of any known land animal | CoreyFord via iStock

The Torosaurus was an important species in helping scientists understand the various types of ceratopsian dinosaurs. 

This species went extinct along with the other dinosaurs when the Chicxulub asteroid hit but left much less fossil evidence than its relatives. 

Ceratopsian skulls are some of the best-preserved fossils in the world. 

Torosaurus has been an important dinosaur in learning how the frills evolved across ceratopsians and the types that live in North America. 

The debate of whether Torosaurus and Triceratops have been principal in discovering what separates dinosaur species from one another. 

Torosaurus and Triceratops were one of the last dinosaurs to evolve before going extinct. The crest of Torosaurus was extremely large and advanced compared to early dinosaurs. 

Torosaurus and Tricerotops | Nobu Tamura via Wikimedia Commons CC BY-SA

Needing to fight off some of the scariest land predators to exist is why the Torosaurus had one of the largest heads of any land animal to exist. 


Torosaurus was a ceratopsian dinosaur that lived in North America during the Late Cretaceous period until its extinction came along with the rest of the dinosaurs. 

Torosaurus was discovered over 100 years ago, but still today, there is still lot to learn about this ancient giant. 

Torosaurus can be compared with elephants since both were large herbivores that lived in groups and had very few predators to worry about because of their strength. 

As time goes on, what is known about the Torosaurus is bound to change since new studies are also being done. 

With only eight fossils discovered of this dinosaur, much is still missing from their fossil recordings, including a juvenile specimen. 

While a lot is known about the Torosaurus, mysteries are still to be uncovered about this ancient giant. 


Are Torosaurus and Triceratops the same dinosaur? 

There has been a constant debate about whether Torosaurus and Triceratops are the same dinosaurs, with some paleontologists theorizing Torosaurus is the adult form of Triceratops. 

Currently, Torosaurs are considered their own genus, and this theory has not been accepted. 

The Torosaurus’s larger head with two holes in its frill is the main difference it showcases between Triceratops. 

With little fossil evidence currently available, scientific consensus about these two dinosaurs may change in the future. 

How common are Torosaurus fossils?

While there have been over 2,000 discoveries of Triceratops fossils, there have only been around eight discoveries of Torosaurus fossils discovered. 

Compared to the Triceratops, the Torosaurus fossils are extremely rare. The most complete fossil discovered of Torosaurus contained around 90% of its skull and a 25% complete skeleton. 

Why does the Torosaurus have holes in its head? 

The holes in the Torosaurus frill are one of their most distinguishing traits. 

The bones that make up this dinosaur’s frill were made up of metaplastic bone, which is able to change over time to take on new forms. 

The holes on the dinosaur’s head likely would have been covered with a layer of skin, but these perforations can be seen in their left-behind fossils.


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