Protoceratopsname render

Temporal range: Late Cretaceous
812940 orig.png
Without quills
Protoceratops portrait by microcosmicecology-d4oa8le.jpg
With quills
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Order: Ornithischia
Family: Protoceratopsidae
Genus: Protoceratops
Granger & Gregory, 1923
Type species
Protoceratops andrewsi
Granger & Gregory, 1923
Referred species
  • †P. andrewsi Granger & Gregory, 1923
  • †P. hellenikorhinus Lambert et al., 2001

Protoceratops (pro·to·cer·a·tops) (/ˌproʊtoʊˈsɛrətɒps/; from Greek proto-/πρωτο- "first", cerat-/κερατ- "horn" and -ops/-ωψ "face", meaning "First Horned Face") is a genus of sheep-sized (1.8 m long) herbivorous ceratopsian dinosaur, from the Upper Cretaceous Period (Campanian stage) of what is now Mongolia. It was a member of the Protoceratopsidae, a group of early horned dinosaurs. Unlike later ceratopsians, however, it was a much smaller creature that lacked well-developed horns and retained some primitive traits not seen in later genera.

Protoceratops had a large neck frill which was likely used as a display site to impress other members of the species. Other hypotheses about its function include protection of the neck and anchoring of jaw muscles, but the fragility of the frill and the poor leverage offered by possible attachment sites here makes these ideas implausible. Described by Walter W. Granger and W.K. Gregory in 1923, Protoceratops was initially believed to be an ancestor of the North American ceratopsians. Researchers currently distinguish two species of Protoceratops (P. andrewsi and P. hellenikorhinus), based in part by their respective sizes.

In the 1920s, Roy Chapman Andrews discovered fossilized eggs in Mongolia that were interpreted as belonging to this dinosaur, but which turned out to be those of Oviraptor.


Discovery and species



Origin of griffin myths



Protoceratops defends itself against a Velociraptor

Protoceratops had predators like Velociraptor to keep its numbers down. A famous fossil shows a lone Velociraptor take down a lone Protoceratops. The Velociraptor slashed the herbivore's throat while the Protoceratops bit the raptor's arm and broke it. Both are claimed to have died by a sandstorm right when they were about kill each other. This was a very famous fossil preserved until 1971 where it was unearthed by paleontologists.

In popular culture


Community content is available under CC-BY-SA unless otherwise noted.