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Wikimedia Commons

10 Things You Might Not Know About Triceratops

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Wikimedia Commons

Dinosaurs are still with us. They’ve stomped, chomped, and roared their way into our movies, our museums, and our imaginations. So let’s get ready to dig a little deeper. Today, we’re taking a closer look at everyone’s favorite three-horned herbivore, Triceratops. 

1. It’s the Official State Fossil of South Dakota

And lest anyone fear that Triceratops is still underappreciated, the creature is also Wyoming’s “State Dinosaur” (and, yes, that’s a separate category).

2. Those Distinctive Horns Changed Shape with Age

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Scientists have found that baby Triceratops had short, stubby horns. Over time, these began curving backward before pointing in the opposite direction and assuming their familiar form once their owner hit adulthood. Skip to the 12:10-mark in this awesome TED talk for more details:

3. Triceratops Duels Could Get Rather Nasty

These beasties had a knack for collecting battle scars—in a few very specific locations! Distinctive wounds are often found near the eye sockets and the base of the frills in Triceratops skulls. Why there? According to research conducted in 2009, the injuries were likely caused by adults locking their horns in combat.

4. T. rex Couldn’t Resist Nibbling on Triceratops Faces

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Thanks to some tell-tale bite marks, we know that not only would a hungry Tyrannosaurus sink its teeth into the occasional hunk of Triceratops, but the predator would frequently target its delicate facial tissue in the process (though less-meaty regions of the skull were largely ignored).

5. The Price of a Decent Triceratops Skull has Gone Through the Roof

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Not even dinosaurs are inflation-proof. In 1997, the average Triceratops skull (harvested by fossil collectors) cost roughly $2500. Nowadays, museums and private dinosaur-fanciers alike generally have to shell out well over ten times as much to get their hands on one!

6. Triceratops Had Good Posture

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Old paintings depict Triceratops’ front legs sprawling out to the side, similar to those of a modern crocodile. However, a re-analysis of its elbow joint showed that the beast maintained an upright, rhinoceros-like gait instead.

7. Triceratops Was Originally Mistaken for an Overgrown Bison

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During the American Gilded Age, paleontologist Othneil Charles Marsh received a pair of fossilized horn fragments which he thought belonged to a giant, prehistoric bovine. But subsequent discoveries from the area convinced him that what he’d found was, in fact, a dinosaur, which Marsh eventually named “Triceratops” (meaning “Three-Horned Face”). 

8. In 1889, Somebody Actually Tried Lassoing A Triceratops.

While exploring the badlands of Wyoming, one of Marsh’s associates—a brilliant scientist named John Bell Hatcher—was approached by a rancher who’d spotted a huge, mysterious skull on his property. It turned out to have been one of the very first Triceratops specimens ever discovered. Oblivious to its significance, the cattleman attempted to haul off his treasure by throwing a lasso over one of its horns … which promptly snapped off.

9. Triceratops’ Head Was Nearly One-Third the Length of Its Body

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No doubt about it: Triceratops had one heck of a noggin, which could stretch 2.5 meters (8.2 feet) from end to end. By comparison, the critter’s entire body reached a total length of around 8 meters (26.25 feet).

10. Its Name Was Wrongly Pronounced “Dead” By the Media

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Let the record show—once and for all—that while Triceratops may be extinct, its scientific name isn’t going anywhere. Why bring this up? For several years, the press has been erroneously claiming that Triceratops Never Existed.

The confusion began in 2010, when paleontologist Jack Horner co-authored a paper in which he argued that Triceratops and Torosaurus (a related dino) were really one and the same. No organism can (academically) go by two monikers, so, if Horner turns out to have been right, one of these titles would have to be discarded. But, have no fear, fellow fossil nerds! The more recognizable name was coined two years earlier and, hence, has seniority. So, we might lose Torosaurus, but we’ll still have Triceratops! 

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Roadside Bear Statue in Wales is So Lifelike That Safety Officials Want It Removed
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Wooden bear statue.

There are no real bears in the British Isles for residents to worry about, but a statue of one in the small Welsh town of Llanwrtyd Wells has become a cause of concern. As The Telegraph reports, the statue is so convincing that it's scaring drivers, causing at least one motorist to crash her car. Now road safety officials are demanding it be removed.

The 10-foot wooden statue has been a fixture on the roadside for at least 15 years. It made headlines in May of 2018 when a woman driving her car saw the landmark and took it to be the real thing. She was so startled that she veered off the road and into a street sign.

After the incident, she complained about the bear to highways officials who agreed that it poses a safety threat and should be removed. But the small town isn't giving in to the Welsh government's demands so quickly.

The bear statue was originally erected on the site of a now-defunct wool mill. Even though the mill has since closed, locals still see the statue as an important landmark. Llanwrtyd Wells councilor Peter James called it an "iconic gateway of the town," according to The Telegraph.

Another town resident, who wished to remain anonymous, told The Telegraph that the woman who crashed her car had been a tourist from Canada where bears are common. Bear were hunted to extinction in Britain about 1000 years ago, so local drivers have no reason to look out for the real animals on the side of the road.

The statue remains in its old spot, but Welsh government officials plan to remove it themselves if the town doesn't cooperate. For now, temporary traffic lights have been set up around the site of the accident to prevent any similar incidents.

[h/t The Telegraph]

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10 Scientific Benefits of Being a Dog Owner
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The bickering between cat people and dog people is ongoing and vicious, but in the end, we're all better off for loving a pet. But if anyone tries to poo-poo your pooch, know that there are some scientific reasons that they're man's best friend.

1. YOU GET SICK LESS OFTEN.

Dog snuggling on a bed with its person.
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If cleaning commercials are to be believed, humanity is in the midst of a war against germs—and we shouldn't stop until every single one is dead. In reality, the amount of disinfecting we do is making us sicker; since our bodies are exposed to a less diverse mix of germs, our entire microbiome is messed up. Fortunately, dogs are covered in germs! Having a dog in the house means more diverse bacteria enters the home and gets inside the occupants (one study found "dog-related biodiversity" is especially high on pillowcases). In turn, people with dogs seem to get ill less frequently and less severely than people—especially children—with cats or no pets.

2. YOU'RE MORE RESISTANT TO ALLERGIES.

Child and mother playing with a dog on a bed.
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While dog dander can be a trigger for people with allergies, growing up in a house with a dog makes children less likely to develop allergies over the course of their lives. And the benefits can start during gestation; a 2017 study published in the journal Microbiome found that a bacterial exchange happened between women who lived with pets (largely dogs) during pregnancy and their children, regardless of type of birth or whether the child was breastfed, and even if the pet was not in the home after the birth of the child. Those children tested had two bacteria, Ruminococcus and Oscillospira, that reduce the risk of common allergies, asthma, and obesity, and they were less likely to develop eczema.

3. YOU'LL HAVE BETTER HEART HEALTH.

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Everything about owning a dog seems to lend itself to better heart health. Just the act of petting a dog lowers heart rate and blood pressure. A 2017 Chinese study found a link between dog ownership and reduced risk of coronary artery disease, while other studies show pet owners have slightly lower cholesterol and are more likely to survive a heart attack.

4. YOU GET MORE EXERCISE.

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While other pets have positive effects on your health as well, dogs have the added benefit of needing to be walked and played with numerous times a day. This means that many dog owners are getting 30 minutes of exercise a day, lowering their risk of cardiovascular disease.

5. YOU'LL BE HAPPIER.

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Dog owners are less likely to suffer from depression than non-pet owners. Even for those people who are clinically depressed, having a pet to take care of can help them out of a depressive episode. Since taking care of a dog requires a routine and forces you to stay at least a little active, dog owners are more likely to interact with others and have an increased sense of well-being while tending to their pet. The interaction with and love received from a dog can also help people stay positive. Even the mere act of looking at your pet increases the amount of oxytocin, the "feel good" chemical, in the brain.

6. YOU HAVE A MORE ACTIVE SOCIAL LIFE.

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Not only does dog ownership indirectly tell others that you're trustworthy, your trusty companion can help facilitate friendships and social networks. A 2015 study published in PLOS One found that dogs can be both the catalyst for sparking new relationships and also the means for keeping social networks thriving. One study even showed that those with dogs also had closer and more supportive relationships with the people in their lives.

7. YOUR DOG MIGHT BE A CANCER DETECTOR.

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Your dog could save your life one day: It seems that our canine friends have the ability to smell cancer in the human body. Stories abound of owners whose dogs kept sniffing or licking a mole or lump on their body so they got it checked out, discovering it was cancerous. The anecdotal evidence has been backed up by scientific studies, and some dogs are now trained to detect cancer.

8. YOU'LL BE LESS STRESSED AT WORK.

Woman working on a computer while petting a dog.
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The benefits of bringing a dog to work are so increasingly obvious that more companies are catching on. Studies show that people who interact with a pet while working have lower stress levels throughout the day, while people who do not bring a pet see their stress levels increase over time. Dogs in the office also lead to people taking more breaks, to play with or walk the dog, which makes them more energized when they return to work. This, in turn, has been shown to lead to much greater productivity and job satisfaction.

9. YOU CAN FIND OUT MORE ABOUT YOUR PERSONALITY.

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The kind of dog you have says a lot about your personality. A study in England found a very clear correlation between people's personalities and what type of dogs they owned; for example, people who owned toy dogs tended to be more intelligent, while owners of utility dogs like Dalmatians and bulldogs were the most conscientious. Other studies have found that dog owners in general are more outgoing and friendly than cat owners.

10. YOUR KIDS WILL BE MORE EMPATHETIC.

A young boy having fun with his dog.
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Though one 2003 study found that there was no link between pet ownership and empathy in a group of children, a 2017 study of 1000 7- to 12-year-olds found that pet attachment of any kind encouraged compassion and positive attitudes toward animals, which promoted better well-being for both the child and the pet. Children with dogs scored the highest for pet attachment, and the study notes that "dogs may help children to regulate their emotions because they can trigger and respond to a child's attachment related behavior." And, of course, only one pet will happily play fetch with a toddler.

A version of this story originally ran in 2015.

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