Centrosaurus, or the “Pointed Lizard”, was an herbivorous ceratopsian dinosaur that lived in the Late Cretaceous Period of North America (about 75 million years ago). This dinosaurs name refers to the small horns placed along the margin of the frill, not for the horn on its nose. It should not be confused with the Kentrosaurus, whose name is derived from the same meaning. The first remains were discovered by paleontologist Lawrence Lambe along the Red Deer River in Alberta, Canada. Later, many bone beds of centrosaurus were found in Dinosaur Provincial Park in Alberta. These beds contain thousands of individuals of all ages. Scientists speculate that this herd may have perished while trying to cross a flooded river.
Centrosaurus had a massive body with stocky limbs, although it was not considered a large dinosaur at 18 to 20 feet long. It had a single large horn over the nose, like other Centrosaurines. The horn curved either forward or backward depending on the species. A pair of small horns were also located over the eyes. In the species C. apertus, these horns were pointed upward. In C. brinkmani, the horns pointed outward to the sides. C. apertus is distinguished by having two large hornlets which hook forward over the frill, while in C. brinkmani these hornlets are small and covered with small, finger-like growths. Like other ceratopsians, the jaws of centrosaurus were designed to cut through tough plant matter.
The large frills and nasal horns of the Centrosaurus are among the most distinctive facial adornments of all dinosaurs. Their function has been debated ever since the first horned dinosaur fossils were discovered. Common theories concerning the function of frills and horns include defense from predatory dinosaurs, combat within the species, and visual display. Studies of skull lesions in centrosaurus bones found that injuries to the skull were more likely caused by inter-species combat, rather than predatory attacks. The frill of the centrosaurus was too thin to be used for defense.