Styracosaurus, meaning “spiked lizard”, is a genus of ceratopsian dinosaur from the Campanian age of the Late Cretaceous Period (76.5 to 75 million years ago). It was first discovered and collected in Alberta, Canada by C.M. Sternberg and was named by Lawrence Lambe in 1913. The type species is S. albertensis. A more nearly complete specimen was found in 1915 by Barnum Brown and Erich Maren Schlaikjer. This specimen was found in the same bone bed formation as the nominate find. The new find was distinct from the first and was granted a new species name, S. parksi. The 1915 dig site was rediscovered in 2006 and fragments that were abandoned by the original crew were collected. A third species was discovered at the Two Medicine Formation by Gilmore in 1930. Although fossil material is limited, it is determined to be another distinct species, S. ovatus.
Styracosaurus was a medium to large dinosaur at 18 feet long and weighing nearly 3 tons. It stood 6 feet tall. A single horn protruded from its nose that would have been about 2 feet long and 6 inches wide. The creature had a beak and teeth in its cheeks, most likely making it an herbivore. The neck frill was crowned with at least four long spikes. These long spikes could be between 19 and 22 inches long. Its bulky body resembled that of a rhinoceros. It had powerful shoulders which may have been useful in combat. The tail was short. Based on fossil studies, paleontologists believe Styracosaurus stood in a crouched position and may have been able to run faster than a modern elephant.
This herbivorous dinosaur most likely fed on low growth due to the low positioning of its head. It may have been able to knock down larger and/or taller plants with its horns and body to get to other plant growth. Its beak was more likely used to grasp and pluck food rather biting food. The dental batteries had teeth that were continually replenished throughout life.
The nasal horn and frill of the Styracosaurus has been labeled as one of the most unique head dress features of any dinosaur, although there is much debate of the actual purpose this frill served. Studies of the damages to the nasal and frill horns of recovered fossils indicate that the injuries were not caused by combat, but rather by bone disease. The large frill may have helped increase body area to help regulate body temperature, much like the ears of the modern elephant. The frill may have also played a part in sexual displaying or other social ranking behaviors.