- Paul Anthony Jones
(n.) a herbivorous dinosaur of the late Cretaceous
Styracosaurus was a gigantic herbivorous dinosaur of the late Cretaceous period, likely weighing in the region of 3 tonnes and measuring some 16-18ft nose to tail.
Resembling the more familiar Triceratops, Styracosaurus was relatively short and stocky, and likewise had a prominent armoured neck frill around its head. But unlike Triceratops, Styracosaurus only had a single prominent horn in the centre of its face—which, etymologically, is the origin of its name.
Styrax was a Greek word for a spike or bolt at the rear end of a spear—the end closest to its holder. This rear spike operated both as a counterweight to the main spike at the spear’s business end, and as a backup should the main spike become damaged or break off in the middle of battle.
Styracosaurus’ main facial horn—which was almost perfectly straight, and perhaps measured anything up to 2ft—was so prominent that this fairly obscure Greek root was chosen as the origin of its name.
Precisely what the creature used this enormous horn for has been the subject of debate for decades, since its remains were first discovered in 1913. But it’s likely the horn acted both as a defensive measure and as an antler-like way of fighting against suitors and securing a mate.